Tag Archives: Gary Snyder




                                                            every valve
                                                            leaks a little
                                                            there is no

                                                            stopping the flow.
                                                            – Gary Snyder (“Fixing the System”)

I worried once
about wasting water,

                              steady drip

at the trough,
at the hose bib,
at the gate valve

                              green year-round

gathering tree frogs,
snakes and cottontails.


Raining crystal drops
rising with Greenheads
from the tailwater
of the irrigated pasture

               on a Sabbath
               with my father
               instead of church:

he spoke into the clouds.


               With the gravity
               that holds us close
               to this earth,

                              always a little
                              leaks by
                              to remind us.






                                        A mind like compost.
                                             – Gary Snyder (“On Top”)

All the deep stuff
against the decomposing
granite, the rock beneath

a jillion moons of dirt,
of marginal soil—
our slanted earth

beneath the upright grass,
beneath the wildflowers,
beneath our feet

and hooves, horses,
cattle grazing—all
the deep stuff leaks

gently to the surface,
out from under
saturated ground

as if a cleansing,
as if a new recipe
in rivulets spreading

fundamental elements
into muddy creeks

to settle and collect
behind the structures
of dead architects.






                                                                                       “listen to that music.
                                               The self we hold so dear will soon be gone.”

                                                       – Gary Snyder (“Anger, Cattle and Achilles”)

I’ve packed a rifle since I was ten
following cow trails in these hills
listening to music: the Red Tail’s cry,

its feathers rush overhead,
plummeting for fun—a calling
to another life without accouterments.

In time, we collect clear moments
of ourselves, fresh glimpses stamped
and saved that weigh nothing, cost

nothing, yet live behind our eyes.
No word for the first murmur
of a cow to its wobbly, wet calf

forever branded in our brains—
no word for the outside music
played with poetry and song.



Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Careful” / “Full of Care”






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.


Early Morning Writing



Fellow blogger menomama3, Life in a Flash and Wuthering Bites, has asked that I share my writing process.


To begin with,

I get up early, my writing habit for years. It’s black outside except for one unobtrusive mercury vapor light at the horse barn, not a sound in the canyon. This is my time. No ringing phone, no demands from the outside world. My mind is fresh from whatever dream possessed it while I slept and relaxed. Often a dream lingers inexplicably, sometimes a day or two with vivid images and interactions or just a fog of feeling I can’t explain. But bottomline, my mind is all mine for a couple of hours.

Staring at a blank white sheet is not as intimidating as it used to be, and more often than not I already have a line strumming in my head, perhaps one garnered from my sleep. If not, because this is my discipline to write every morning, I have several collections from poets I admire on my desk that I may open randomly, and many on the shelf if the ones close at hand don’t help my inspiration.

In either event, the first line goes down. It may become the third line, last line, but in the process, that’s unimportant. By the third or fourth line of the first stanza, I’ll probably reorganize the first line anyway, or trash it altogether. I edit while I write, unlike many poets I know. My poetry is somewhat lyrical, and this jousting around in the first stanza or two, I think, is to set the meter or rhythm of the poem. I tend towards internal rhyme, it seems, and lean on it heavily to establish, or reestablish, meter.

I may approach the page with strong purpose, but most of the time I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and that’s the fun part. This grazing livestock culture relies heavily on metaphor, on personification, on anthropomorphic (new word, Suzanne?) explanations, and with that, a unique vernacular I also try to utilize in my poetry, as my own way of thinking.

I depend on details that I visualize to turn a line in a poem, a cause and effect, hands-on approach, and allow myself to feel the action, to become vulnerable and human, hoping to connect with readers beyond my world.

And why?

Reclusive by nature, the cattle culture has been under siege for generations. Hollywood has not helped our reputation, nor have a half-dozen well-meaning campaigns originating in town to oust us from the land, often in favor of development or other extractive industries. Our livelihoods are dependent on the renewable resource of grass. In it for the long term, we do everything we can to keep the ground, and our cattle, healthy. Land and cattle, we are one family, and that comes first.


come when time allows, I have several in my head: a chapbook with a working title of The Dry Years (surely to sell like hotcakes) and a perfect-bound, larger collection that will include the chap; also an eBook of photographs and haiku, when I can find a format as kind to the photographs as wordpress has been.





Old black horse, tennis shoes.
I was ten, give or take a year or two,
driving cows and calves up Greasy
well-before they built the dam.

Dad hollering at the bunch splitting,
at me, at God, at everything.
You asked me then when we were done,
if I wanted to be a cowboy?

Tear streaks dried like a second skin,
I cried, “No!” and meant it—
horseback, just below Spoon Rock.

Amid the green, we have become old men,
of all the things we could have been,
going slow, just below Spoon Rock.



WPC(2) — “Achievement”





                         By division we speak, out of wonder.
                              – Wendell Berry (“To Gary Snyder”)

Alone and small within
the Sierra granite, day or night,
I ached for more

than horses and mules
to share the deep
disarming awe at each turn

of the trail, pure snowmelt
reflections of heaven
rippling beneath me,

the infinite blackness,
as I lay down to sleep,
perforated with galaxies

that surrounded me
like lantern light twinkling
off mica-flecked rock.

Perhaps it was that Sabbath
when greenheads rose from the cattails,
drops of water trailing their ascension

and my father’s long pause
to speak beyond religions
that drew me to the wild.



Out of wonder by wild design,
like greenheads rising, our ascension
from cattail ooze on a Sabbath

when I was a boy surprised
with my father—and all times since
shaking off the last glistening drops

to fly—no church or sermon necessary
to feel whole, to shed the nonessentials,
to become awestruck, he implied.

Even the shadow beneath the ridge
of a rattlesnake track teaches
by design, direction and urgency

left to fade within the long history
of earth. We cannot help building
fences in our minds to keep the wild

away and apart from our selfishness.
But only out of wonder may we remove
the barbed wire from our hearts.




                                        Every day, every evening, every
                                        abject step or stumble has become heroic—

                                                – William Stafford (“Waiting In Line”)

What once was wild play
when we could right ourselves
and dodge the ricochets,

reach and rope a dream
that danced on a long twine,
is no less heroic now

measuring each hoof beat,
every swing in the branding pen.
I have watched old men

ride closer to the center
of concentric circles in time
spinning quickly on the outside

to find their dot within
a slow-motion bull’s eye
just to inhale the details

that make each moment rich—
and dammit, that’s just what
I’ve gone and done.


“Hay for the Horses”


                                        The Voice
                                         is a wife

                                         him still.
                                                            – Gary Snyder (”Regarding Wave”)

Light rides on a wave
in a dream from space
connecting all things,

especially the architecture
of man floating
in the bigger picture:

endings become beginnings
of new things
like shadows hooked

to a bare oak trees—
or the reflection
of a space station

come alive in a black
ocean of stars,
if far enough away—

if we stay small enough
to listen, if we stay still
and wake slowly

                    to both sides
                    like a bell.



                                                   “Freebird” by Walter Piehl, Jr.