Tag Archives: Paul Zarzyski





Dear Paul, I write in fear for damn-near
all the gods, the large and small, the holy
and profane deities that will evacuate this
brave new world, flee under fire: open
season, no bag limit for their wild diversity.
We must hone keen eyes and listen closer,
old ears to the ground and its grumbling,
save space between the lines to nourish
and receive epiphanies and not lose faith
in the hapless hands and hearts of humanity.

The rain gods have returned on time to keep
the green alive in this canyon, hope beyond
the numbers and the market to carry on
the old ways, light fires for chunks of meat
to celebrate their visitations with friends
and family, nod and lift a glass to common
senses. The large and small will gather
in our dancing shadows, dodging smoke
upon each arriving breath from up or down
canyon—open space for them all around us.






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.



Dear Paul, I’m not saying it’s over,
one never knows about the bigger picture,
but it’s rained and green and we got mud
instead of dust in the house for Christmas,
puddles in the garden. We learned a lot—
this blessing of basics disguised as disaster
made us tough, cold and calloused
as we tried to grin the bear down,
make friends with our dry realities.
(We’ll never run the ranch the same.)
I can write you now with more
than more bad news to add
to your rants to the outside world—

                      O’ Humanity, look
                     what we’ve become:
                      slaughtering children in school,
                      buckling under to cyber blackmail,
                      while Wall Street goes up over 400
                      and Congress smokes Cuban cigars.

We learned to retreat, keep our heads down
and ‘let them play’ as we searched for water,
fed cows to keep our future alive.
Are these not Jeffers’ ‘new values’,
the most basic this world has forgotten?

Hands-on people—we like the smell
of sweat, the sound of words and the feel
of accomplishment, day by day—it’s all
we have to share. Hoping to rekindle
our correspondence, I wish you, Liz
and Zeke some super-duper holidays.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


It is not bad. Let them play.
Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane
Speak his prodigious blasphemies.
It is not bad, it is high time,
Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine
The fleet limbs of the antelope?
What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?
Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.

Who would remember Helen’s face
Lacking the terrible halo of spears?
Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,
The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?
Violence, the bloody sire of all the world’s values.

Never weep, let them play,
Old violence is not too old to beget new values.
                                                            -Robinson Jeffers


Red, Congats yourself for wrangling words
to earn another Spur Award. It ain’t baseball,
maybe more American, more human than
writing poetry—your letter à la vernacular
typed on heavy linen, you and Wolfie (R.I.P.)
in a colored square that looks down
like you’re riding that Irish Wolfhound
across the landscape, visiting the world.

Say hello to Prince George for me,
Barry McKinnon. I’d love to hear you
and your daughter read. It will be chilly
this time of year, that barren ground
in the middle of B.C. where words take root
and struggle to mean more in that calloused
open space. It’s a long ways from the Sixties—
so many more wars and political deception.
We need forty days and nights alone
without Facebook or a smart phone
to get our heads straight, make home living
as richly as we can in this poor world.

cc: Red Shuttleworth, Paul Zarzyski
April 12, 2013