Tag Archives: FY2011 Federal Budget

AT THE HEART OF THINGS

                                A rattlesnake coils among cold stones,
                                full of mice, waits for evening
                                when he will hunt again.

                                               – Linda M. Hasselstrom (“Morning News
                                                                    on Windbreak Road”)

No feast on Dry Creek, no dance among the trees –
no amount of words rhymed with earth will change
the arrogance of men primping in the light.

We do not breathe by their generosity, nor believe
they may, someday, be gods – saviors of a nation
always at war with what it can’t comprehend.

We have forgotten, perhaps we never heard
the silent mantra of the harvest strum in our heads –
hands busy, bodies bent, genuflecting in the dirt.

Or been of a tribe of men, women and communities
that still rise to raise a glass to that great expanse
that feeds us all we need, sparingly. Riding out

alone, do you remember conversations with living
and dead? Did you mark the granite outcrop,
hang words in an oak tree, or just let them loose

on a hawk’s wing? If only Jeffers’ perch-mates,
power and desire – not greed – might roost in
Washington, we’d dedicate his fountain to humanity.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *               *

As the dust settles, I am reminded of Andy Warhol’s famous ’15 minutes of fame’ quote in 1968 after the hullabaloo of the recent NY Times’ piece,
‘For Cowboy Poets, Unwelcome Spotlight in Battle Over Spending’
Dry Crik Journal received nearly 4,000 visits and 14 assorted comments in the 3 days following. Not unwelcome because that’s what we’ve been about here, sharing, trying to offer glimpses of a grounded way of life that we think consists of a bit more than what’s assumed by the majority. The referenced Robinson Jeffer’s poem: ‘THE EXCESSES OF GOD’ is worth a read, wonderfully applicable. Linda Hasselstrom’s poem is forthcoming from Dry Crik Review.

IN SELF-DEFENSE

Easy to get emotional on the Senate floor, misspeak
extemporaneously to take the snipers’ potshots while
trying to save the arts for humanity like a little girl lost

in the crossfire, or before investing more on war.
Katrina came and left New Orleans underwater
slick with oil. New England fracks for natural gas

and Fukushima leaks real radioactivity to California’s
happy cows. Still hungry for energy, it’s difficult
to live in the moment, as we wear ever-changing fear

and panic like uncomfortable underclothes, like
sackcloth. On the surface, we exchange living green
for speed and comfort, swap our aching knees and

yesterday’s horses for more horsepower mid-stream,
planting houses in the San Joaquin that used to feed
a more patient population. The sun will dawn despite

our hopeless battle with the clock, despite the weight
of addictions we can’t escape – I write in self-defense
as if there were only moments left to live, one at a time.

                                                                       for Harry Reid

Elko & the NEA

It’s a hostile environment in Washington where no politician wants to be blamed for increasing the federal deficit to $14 trillion by voting for the $3.7 trillion budget before them.

Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, in a recent plea for the National Endowment for the Humanities, used the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering as an example of good sponsorship that has subsequently fired the ire of both conservatives and liberals, but won’t bring consensus in any meaningful way. Though Reid misspoke slightly by saying, “The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.” We know what he meant, and we know what the Gathering has meant to each of us and the community of Elko for the past 27 years.

Eliminating NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts, budgeted for around $124 million, won’t balance the books – a drop in the bucket where over a $1 trillion has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, where the current Defense Budget is over $500 billion. In the scheme of things, the NEH stands at less than .00003% of the FY2011 Federal Budget.

Long a measure of economic health, we are suffering the consequences of too much growth, a collapsed, debt-driven growth requiring nearly $5 trillion to bailout our economy.  The National Endowment for the Humanities was not the cause, nor is its amputation from the budget a solution.

In hard times, our focus becomes especially short term, looking to cut where we can to get-by, but never really dealing with the issues, now more emotional than ever, that created our problems. If ever there were a time to take the longer view, it is now. As for the arts and humanity, a little more of both would serve us all well.