The shelves of supermarkets
are dependent on farmers,
both foreign and domestic
dependent on bankers—
on tractor drivers, irrigators and brown skin labor,
both legal and illegal
looking for a better life
to fill the trucks for grocery stores
that fill our families’ bellies.
We are dependent on the weather and electricity
to pump the water
to grow the crops for harvest.
We are dependent on our phones and Internet
to keep in touch
with skewed news and friends
lest we find ourselves alone
for an hour—lest we begin
to know our minds
or even reason for ourselves.
We are dependent on the politicians
dependent on corporate donations
as they campaign to stay
close to the feed bunks,
instead of representing
the workingman trying
to pay for his consumption.
We are dependent on the planet
as we carve up the heart
of its landscape, as we spend
its resources today
instead of saving for tomorrow.
We are dependent on one another
for love and understanding,
for common sense
And lastly, we are dependent on God
and hope to hell
He’s paying attention.
Yea, once a great nation of statesmen and orators
forging principles, annealed by fire, an ethic
shaped with hammer to anvil. Yea, we once were
the envy of the world, yeoman and scholars free
to speak the truth despite their fears—despite our need
to be greater than we are, we fool ourselves.
Four percent of the planet’s population, we are small,
leaving the elite to run this country into the ground
as we consume like feedlot cattle with credit extended
at 25 percent—we have become vassals to the bankers
on Wall Street—our greatness measured by their numbers
with little else left of value to speak or be proud of.
Once a great nation, we are an embarrassment
to humanity, to a once common sense—
we follow the pack like scavengers praying for a bone
until we blindly consume ourselves without wisdom
or compassion. Where are our senators and statesmen?
Have we forgotten who we were, once upon a time?
Our day never done
instead of politics:
all the pig-headed
pontificators hawking lies
like sideshow barkers.
A nation sick to death
trying to get back to normal
we’ll never see again.
We ride this wild earth,
hang-on with gentle hand
feeling for a familiar rhythm.
Brand new day
in some places waiting
for the last egg to crack
from the inside out.
Metaphor for everything
that matters, exploding
to the four winds,
blindly finding legs
hard to corral
with shrill words
they’ve never heard
We waited ages,
marked it with a rock
in the gravel drive.
Only the lesser man regards himself
as superior, assured and measured
by the whims of fleeting fortune—
he clings to hackneyed slogans
like jetsam in the raging river’s storm.
Beef dressed in a layer of white fat,
you cannot tell the color of its hide
on the rail, when cut and wrapped
in butcher paper, or ground to satisfy
your convenient consumption.
In this global herd of humanity,
fear is the currency of exchange
rekindled with falsehoods
propagated by impromptu scripts
to be played by bad actors.
This is not the only show on earth!
Do not be afraid to respect a man’s
hands and heart, learn to look him
in the eye and listen to a rhythm
common beneath your skin.
© Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Son, they all must be crazy out there.
– Michael Burton (“Night Rider’s Lament”)
We get the news as black or white,
reckless words that conceal the truth
reduced to red and blue enamel.
No sage advice from Washington,
no common sense to right the Ship
of State, and no one at the tiller
to face the tempest’s hate—too busy
painting enemies to blame
while adding anger to the storm.
We get your craziness in colors
with the rising smoke and flames
on a planet waging war
in the cloud of a pandemic
neither understood nor cured—
a collage of clashing colors
without a brushstroke for compassion,
discipline or pride lucrative enough
for the media to cover
with an appetite for anarchy
where only self-righteous ride.
“Night Rider’s Lament”
Pink Echinopsis twice in May
after a peak of 110 degrees
like an afterthought—like a sign.
Thin dark clouds float upcanyon
like submarines at dawn,
gun-metal gray—oaks black
on blond hillsides like burnt spots
in the draws. Dark green sycamores
bring the creek flow to a stop.
Morning chill upon the breeze
brushes my bare chest, invigorates
the flesh one more time.
After gathering and processing our Wagyu X calves with a second round of vaccinations, we shipped our first load off to Snake River Farms in Melba, Idaho yesterday. Though grateful we have work to do apart from the growing death toll of the pandemic, it’s been difficult to mentally adjust to this down market as a result of all the Covid-19 related problems in the beef distribution pipeline. Even with the generous premium offered by SRF, payment for the calves is well short of what they brought in 2018.
For the most part, Covid-19 has not changed our activities very much. With another load of Wagyu X calves to ship plus gathering, weaning and hauling our Angus calves to the auction yard yet ahead of us, we have plenty on our plate to keep our minds and bodies occupied as we face tough times in the market. Selling our calves is normally a joyous time, but it’s been hard to get excited this year.
Since mid-March, the impact of Covid-19 on everyone has evolved. We go to town less often, carry what’s left of our hand sanitizer since Elko, practice social distancing with outsiders and adjust to the shortages of basic consumer goods, the reality of which hangs like a dark cloud over everyone’s mental state in these uncertain times. Under these circumstances, it’s been difficult for me, and I suspect others, to maintain a healthy attitude.
Normally a daily exercise, I haven’t completed a poem for three weeks, even though I’ve started plenty. The words seem hackneyed, far from insightful or uplifting. But Robbin brings her guitar out to the deck in the evening and we sing covers of songs we like into the canyon as we try to capture the feelings of Merle Haggard, Gillian Welch, John Prine or Guy Clark to lift our spirits. For us, it’s time to sing.
Blessed are we with the diversions
of spring in bloom: colored orchestrations
of multisyllabic assonance rhyming
with short-clipped awe: an ever-changing tune
that steals the senses midst tumultuous times.
Blessed are we to be alive with work to do.
Always the War to measure the world by:
patriotic hawks enlisting reluctant doves
as fodder that shocked us into an explosion
of lyrics and melodies—an awakening
for music, a renaissance for humanity
we pray may come this way again soon.
The telephone line goes cold;
birds tread it wherever it goes.
– William Stafford (“The Farm on the Great Plains”)
He was old, but younger than I am today,
digging earthworms for a rusty coffee can,
cane pole and cork bobber for the bass hole
on the Kaweah where he pumped water
for summer pasture before the Flood of ‘55
took it all, but memories, downstream.
In those days, we were rich with time to spend
on foolishness, watching water and bobber
in the warm morning’s sunshine. I call
back occasionally, but there is no ring
on the other end for anyone to answer,
no one left at home, no fish in the bass hole.