Tag Archives: Jim Harrison

PIGEON

 

 

                                                                                                           The gods
                                               abhor halters and stirrups, even a horse
                                               blanket to protect our asses is forbidden.

                                                                   – Jim Harrison (“Poet No. 7”)

Handful of mane, wrap
of hair gripped and entwined,
I plowed the pine duff on the Kern
with my chin loping back to the picket line,
bell mare clenched between my legs
when she shied.

                    A pigeon-toed bay,
                    my legs and heart
                    grew into.

A plucky kid
leading mules and people

                    over granite scree
                    to snowmelt meadows
                    framing heaven’s
                    blue-cloud reflection

I could have died
half-dozen times
were I not so close
to the hands of gods
and goddesses

that may have placed
a rattler in the corner of her eye
for entertainment.

                                                  for Bill DeCarteret

 
“Mountains, Mules and Memories”

 

Early Morning Writing

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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.

Projects

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.

 

LEARNING TO LIVE IN TREES

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                                When god visits us he sleeps
                                without a clock in empty bird nests.

                                      – Jim Harrison (“The Little Appearances of God”)

We give ourselves away
perhaps too generously
in poetry, leave bare

the tree, its cankered burls
we’ve grown to live with
season after shorter season

shedding pages
to a southwest wind
before the storm

leaves us clean
once more to dream
the winter long

of green—yearning for
pastoral perfection
between each heartbeat

of littered pages—
we give ourselves away
to open space, to all

the new and wild beginnings
we’ve yet to see
until we learn to live in trees.

 

HARRISON’S BEAR

                            …not likely wanting to be anywhere
                            or anyone else.

                                    – Jim Harrison (“Burning the Ditches”)

One wonders when we die, when we give up
the ghost to let it rise like smoke, if we will be
satisfied with life, or free from the heavy flesh

that has confined our spirit in a back room,
relieved to be among the angels yearning
to roll in the dirt, like empty saddle horses do.

Keeping a balance of sins and virtues is an
accountant’s nightmare, and how to measure
envy and pleasure subject daily to the ticker

tape others profit by. We’ve come too far
too fast, aged too quickly with no way back
to the innocence we left gazing at possibility,

before we left the farm to come to town
to get an education, to get the girl or guy,
to get ahead and get away from just getting by.

But there are places for old eyes yet to redeem
their wanderings, where Harrison’s bear
can be himself, and teach us how to live.