The skid-steer bucket chatters
against the clay and decomposing
granite baked like concrete,
inching deeper into my mind
to the great bay horse dressed pink
and white with long-stemmed Centuary,
scattered wild petals I covered
with dirt—each shovelful a memory
for over an hour. Another hole
and granite headstone, we are surrounded
by the old and faithful we have survived—
another hole, hearts perforated
with each dear soul lost that now arrives
to attend this moment to make us whole.
Quick and painless after fourteen years
of alert devotion, I steal fine ground squirrel
tailings smoothed for the ‘good dog Jack’—
a winter blanket to sow for flowers.
Casualty of drought and time,
no shaded bed in the tangle of dead limbs,
no burnished fruit to harvest—
but its temporary grace in death
teeters beneath the heavens.
What histories yet reside,
what sights saved within its centuries of rings,
of native talk recorded lest
forgotten of wilder beasts and men
teetering beneath the heavens?
I see myself reflected
kindly, a lifetime rooted in the same place
that I’m thankfully becoming
in a harvest of verses penned
that teeters beneath the heavens.
You escape your sister dying
as we make friends with death
at dinner: leftovers and bottles
of red wine to replay our side
of magnificent dear departures
rich with pride, all the ashes
left to live in symbolic places—
living monuments wrought
by hand to absorb our grief.
We knew them all, see them
stand around the table being
near, each fine quirk strong
as when they breathed mirth
into their last words we call
forth as we remember them.
We move up a growing list
with boozy laughter knowing
we’ve done well, been lucky
despite diminishing diversions
well-beyond this moment full
of exceptional examples.
I could have been born a bird
on a gravel island in the creek,
learn to hide in a small world
before I found the gentle grace
to fly, hop rock to rock
as mother drew intruders off
with shoreline flaps of her white
petticoats, feigning injury,
crying seriously in low circles.
I could have been born a bird
without certainty, without worries
about my death or taxes.
I’m below the snowline
biodegradable as hell.
– Red Shuttleworth (“Cafe With Slot Machines”)
When the taxman finds us,
there’s always the argument
over appraisal of this and that
accomplishment, certain failures turned
skyward to face floating white cumulus
with hopes of a more productive afterlife.
The news is too much, poor excuse
for children’s stories peddling common sense.
No Aesop, not even the Brothers Grimm
can keep the future in bread crumbs—
no little red hens to do the dirty work,
no hands-on tools for grindstones.
When he comes, we may be out in the barn
with friends, dusty antiques with loose screws
he may overlook if the dogs don’t
give us away, so far from the house,
trying to freeze time by supposing
we might have made a difference.
Just short of heaven,
dust and ashes come alive
to color hillsides.
WPC — “Reward”
Posted in Haiku 2015, Photographs, Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged death, Drought, Dry Creek, haiku, photographs, poetry, rain, resurrection, weather, weekly-photo-challenge, wildflowers, wildlife
Near the Solstice,
my irrigation water languishes,
lollygags in the pasture
of short-cropped green
and a few too many cows—
soaking and absorbed
fifty yards shy
of the wilting end
to my temporary world.
Fifty years ago,
my mother’s father
curtly admonished me,
that nothing is permanent.
After a dark night
of chasing dreams,
I wonder if death
than a good sleep
while the water runs
to pasture’s end.