Chain saw heavier, I cut arms
off skeletons littering pastures
and canyons after years of drought,
a battleground where old oaks lost
touch with water—most barkless now
tipped-over or in tangled piles
beneath authoritative trunks
begging purpose, begging cremation
or stacked close to the woodstove.
Old habits and rituals finally slow
as the limbs grow heavier despite
the pleading of the heartwood.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2022, Ranch Journal
Tagged age, cordwood, Drought, habits, oak trees, photography, poetry, rituals, skeletons, woodstove
the forecast rain peters out
to a light mist, heavy dew, a sip
to hold greening hills a week—
like always, I’m disappointed
security for cows.
Today, we’ll cut skeletons
of brittle manzanita
into woodstove lengths
to bring Blue Oak coals
to flame each morning.
We’ll take the dog,
put out salt,
check cows and calves—
stack the brush
load the Kubota
and let her sit between us
all the way home.
Through the years
we have worn cow trails of our own.
Like always, we’ll see something
we’ve never seen before.
Four-thirty and it’s cooled down
from 115—black cows are leaving
sycamore shade for the water trough,
plodding several hundred yards of hard clay
and short blond fuzz to drink,
not like last night’s forceful mob,
but one-by-one, the order established
over years of living together—uphill
two hundred more to shady Blue Oaks
to gather and decide which way to go.
The heat has slowed their rhythm
only slightly, they are bound to graze
what’s left on the slopes behind us:
take the steep trail to the top of the ridge
or the long pull only part-way to the sky.
One hundred ten degrees,
a kestrel lights where water sprays
the onion bed and bathes—
then soon its mate,
or so it seems at a distance
in the fuzzy heat.
Now in the morning black
my desk lamp brings
gnats to the window glass,
and tree frogs on a slick,
perpendicular hunt, vying
for positioning, carefully
lifting one foot at a time.
I imagine now the herd
of tree frogs seeking cover
at the kestrels’ landing,
great hops into the thick
onion stems and berry vines
dripping with wonder:
new habits on a timer
every summer evening at six.