I stumble out of an old dream panicked
about cattle I haven’t checked in months
on a hidden ranch I can’t place, connect
except they were not grazing vineyard rows
with no fences, not loose in town this time,
but on some hard-to-gather rolling ground
you can’t see from the pocked asphalt road
snaking through blond summer foothills.
Last time, they were OK, bull calves
too big to brand breeding sisters, but alive
on good feed and water. It may have been
the turkey dressing drenched in juices,
or the cranberries fermenting fear familiar
that I recognize more than this imagined place
to wait before saddling a horse, loading-up
asleep to tilt at impossible windmills.
I’ve been here before, rusty wire on redwood
posts askew, exploring canyons, finding old
rough-haired families too weak to be wild—
all the guilt and disappointment I need
to torture my subconscious. Too old for that,
I roll over to let my weak knees hang before
testing with a first step towards reality:
cigarette, coffee and a poem for Black Friday.
October 27, 2014
A slice of time incised from ranch
routines, an Indian poet-in-residence
for a week, Jack Kerouac on the wind
escaping Montana’s sub-zero to write
about dreams. He thinks in Crow,
undulating hands stroke the grace
between them, never touching speak,
pleasant sounds of rushing water gush
from his lips I almost understand.
I envy this bear of a man
who brings brightly painted ponies
and the Little Big Horn with him,
the feathered glory of reenactments
and contact with the old chiefs
that breathe past and present here
upon my skin. What a way to go out
to become one with time, turn the soul
loose and gather ‘round the fire
of mountain men, all the old cowboys
and pioneers, all the natives done with
trying to make a living on this ground.
for Henry Real Bird
With wild imagination, the sky
speaks in colors and contortions
before storms settle in the mountains,
as gray clouds scout a trail to camp,
a granite peak to rest upon,
run aground, snow and rain.
Three score years plus
of looking up—and away,
daydreaming fleeting poetry
even as a child out the window
of a forced nap—another tongue
with no letters in its language,
only colors and shapes
from every perspective,
no two the same.
I wake to dreams running
with Japhy Rider glowing old,
each awakening begins
a new act, a new setting,
new and easy conversations,
and we are grinning.
I am small in all this,
absorbing each moment
as it unfolds, and fall
into that fuzzy parallel plane
where souls gather,
the dead and alive—
where scientists and governments
cannot touch the caring core
of humanity, where Wall Street
wanes. I wonder now awake
if he remembers me
from last night’s sleep.
Good bug year:
on a wet paint wall,
Crane Fly waiting
for me to dry
and hang my towel
back, herds of Earwigs
hiding between the leaves
of artichokes, and bitter
in my uncovered wine.
Most don’t bite
but feed the Phoebes
and one another
in the springtime,
Hatch upon hatch,
I dream of casting
to eddies, riding riffles,
the splash and set
of hook, playing
and landing trout
if there were
any rivers running.
Red Stem Filaree – April 5, 2011
While we slept, the grass grew
an inch overnight beneath the clouds
and passing showers, working overtime,
as the dry earth spun beneath them—
as the creek edged down through sand
and gravel, seeping over the granite dikes
that lump its bed, towards the river
and settlements downstream. I dreamed
we were the end of the line
living on a lake amid thick timber,
fat fish flashing bellies to the sun
and fresh meat hung in a tree.
No other world beyond but more
of the same, working on its own—
no children slain in schools for effect,
no political charades, no slaves
to bankers banking on superfluous debt—
and the grass grew taller, while we slept.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2014, Ranch Journal
Tagged DREAMS, Dry Creek, photographs, poetry, rain, red-stem filaree, water, weather, wildflowers
He was headed up the road smiling,
wearing a short-sleeved 1950s Hawaiian shirt—
a faded, light print on heavy, coarse muslin
with cuffs—happy with heaven or
from wherever he’d come.
He had time, an eternity—
wanted to see the barren heifers
you grain-fed, killed and gutted,
see the color of the fat—stopped-in
to ask me to go with him.
Years mean nothing in a dream.
We can replay, edit as we like,
take time-outs to maneuver the maze
of surprise details and survive
the fears we’ve disguised wide awake.
Some of the close ones arrive to reassure us
that they are well after escaping life—
that all we had hoped for them,
and they for themselves, exists within—
and from wherever they’ve come.
Back in the barn of my dreams
beneath the debris of lost details
stashed in a stall, I see part
of the anvil where I shaped shoes
for the Tharp’s Peak pair, Bess
and Outlaw—all gone in a haze
of forty years. Rotten halters
and harness leather piled on top,
I thought it was lost or stolen.
But no one loses an anvil.
I trust the dreams hammered there
wear as well as mine.
Posted in Poems 2014