Orange Harvest Mural by Colleen Michell-Veyna—Exeter, CA
The valley sinks with pumping
deeper and deeper
into investor’s pockets
before they take the write-off,
before they turn the ground
for a profit.
It’s a clean deal
with no hands dirty.
We are the immigrants
from another time
growing closer to the soil,
dreaming still of rain, bumper crops
and markets high enough
to pay the bank off—
mom and pops
who stay the ground.
The natives heard them coming,
saw the woodsmoke,
left rabbits on the doorstep
to keep the guns inside—
to not spook the game
that fed them before
the tule elk and
antelope were gone.
Out of earth and rock
wants to talk in myths
science will dismiss.
We cannot deny
all senses of the eye,
how it dresses and addresses
what rises before us.
Good water, bedrock mortars—
fish flickering by firelight,
generations of good sense
secured in granite.
Dear Paul, the sycamores are undressing
long white limbs, a slow strip tease of fiery leaves
along the creek, my chorus line of dancing nymphs
all these years awaiting storms—but hills are green,
cordwood stacked and banked in thick dry rounds
beside the splitter, hay in the barn, meat in the freezer.
We will be warm with family this Christmas,
come hell or high water—grandpa free
to be a gap-toothed troll if need be.
We come of age all-of-a-sudden, spur
or spurn propriety in slow-motion rides,
get our kicks and licks in where and while we can.
The grizzled old natives never left this ground,
never quite made it past the ridgelines
we rode together busting wild cattle
off rock-piled chemise into the open places
we’ll always gather, build a fire and camp
for eternity—for as long as I remember,
become this ground that claims my flesh.
Slow-sipped days, a joyous plodding now
from moment to moment navigating rains
and grass, old neighbors branding calves
one at a time to stay to see a perfect season—
or as close as we can get, it’s how we make it.
Merry Christmas. John
P.S. Thanks for Montana Quarterly—a luxury
to fish during California’s Dust Bowl—a godsend.
Native generations rise
at water, hoof and pad,
inhaled at dawn.
Weekly Photo Challenge (1) “Between”
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2014
Tagged Drought, dust, Greasy Creek, haiku, Indian Ground, Natives, photographs, poetry, water, Yokuts