Tag Archives: photography

For the Birds

 

 

A pair of precocious little gray birds I’ve never noticed before have spent the summer with Robbin and me, drinking several times a day at the dog’s water on the deck. Smaller than our Western Flycatcher and with a slight crown like a Kingbird, we assumed they were juveniles. At 111 degrees they water more frequently now, arriving open beaked, the female seems shier and more bedraggled than the male. The best ID I can come up with is that they are Wood Pewees, but I defer to others more qualified.

Besides the livestock water troughs that are difficult for many birds to drink from, our inadvertent plumbing leaks draw a wide variety of birds from all around. Now that the spring Bird Wars are over, a territorial drama where the eggs and babies of one nest feed the babies of a larger species, they seem to have found peace in the shade of our yard. Woodpeckers cling to sprinkler heads to get a drop at a time, coveys of quail include a pipeline leak on their daily rounds and Towhees cool beneath the mist of our garden irrigation. It’s quite a show if you can stand to be outside.

 

NATIVE

 

 

You can almost smell them curled
asleep or stretched across smooth rocks,
shining shades of earth, charming

and deadly. They don’t want trouble,
come home each year to make a living,
to together stand above the grasses

wrapped in urgent procreation
as the dry seeds roll in painted gourds—
the dance begins, as they collapse

and rise again. To stay connected,
I’m told that the penis is shaped
like a T —barbs both sides— and

that she can draw upon the sperm
as needed for years. Generations
of brothers and sisters know

their way home. Grandmothers
carry the future and grandfathers watch
and listen, crawl into your mind

to know your secrets, to hear
your confessions to all the ridgeline
men long-gone before you.

 

Happy Birthday Ramblin’ Jack

 

 

The message from Aiyanna Elliott was sketchy other than Jack was having a birthday. By August 1st I learned the date on Facebook. The folk music legend and two-time Grammy winner just turned 89.

In the fall of my freshman year at USC (1966) some friends and I went to see Jack at the Ashgrove, $2 cover and 2-drink minimum. It was a fantastic show, as close as I ever was to being home while going to school in L.A.

I ran into Jack again in 1989, my first invitation to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. We’ve been fast friends ever since. Beginning with traveling and playing with Woodie Guthrie to the present, he has been an inspirational influence on folk music. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Jack the National Medal of the Arts, proclaiming, “In giving new life to our most valuable musical traditions, Ramblin’ Jack has himself become an American treasure.”

Though Jack has been to the ranch several times, the photo above was taken here in September 2008. Jack had a few gigs at some colleges inland from the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season. He called to see if he could layover here at the ranch until either Gustav or Ike (I can’t remember which) made landfall, thus having four hours of driving time behind him. He stayed with Robbin and I for a few days while waiting to see which gigs would be canceled.

To one of the kindest souls we know, Robbin and I wish Ramblin’ Jack a belated Happy Birthday!

 

THIN FILAMENT

 

 

Wild entanglements
clutch the fate of the planet
with thin filament.

 

MICROCOSM

 

 

                  It was impossible to make it through the tragedy
                 Without poetry.

                      – Joy Harjo (“Becoming Seventy”)

This other world of cows and calves,
of motherhood exemplified, and bulls,
like men, trailing wire of down fences

is yet to be expected. A bumper crop
of rodents and snakes surround us,
the full moon coyote count of duets

and trios draws closer around us
in the half-light. The metaphors
and similes come easily to favor

humanity ‘midst the tragic chaos
where the latest issue of the truth
has come to be disbelieved.

 

SURROUNDED BY SQUIRRELS

 

 

Having slain hundreds, another battalion digs in
to undermine the well and water trough, to scout
the garden for an attack on the last tomatoes.

The quail have made a comeback in coveys,
strings of babies trailing on training wheels
making circles, mornings and evenings.

Before our eyes, another lifelong mate
in the making, Roadrunners packing lizards
and snails to their nest in prickly pear cactus.

The heavy-limbed sycamores shade a ribbon
of green along the dry creek bed, sub-irrigated
Bermuda grass a few bulls graze between bellowing.

Black cows shine on a side-hill grade, either side
of the canyon, or silhouettes in shade gossiping
and grinding cud, having shed their babies.

SUVs, RVs, camp trailers and fifth-wheels
escape the confinement of cities to dodge Covid-19
and logging trucks on a narrow mountain road

to the pines, and I don’t blame them—with
a thousand ways to go, why not migrate
where no one seems to worry about dying.

 

IDES OF JULY 2020

 

 

                              There is an easy beauty in the bronze statues
                              dredged up from the ocean, but there is a worth
                              to the unshapely our sweet mind founders on.

                                             – Jack Gilbert (“The Secret”)

Even the old fence posts, split redwood
from the coast eighty years ago,
serve a purpose more than by design,

unexpected dividends through a lifetime
that can’t be spent or bartered—saved only
in our minds. I had stopped to photograph

the White Tailed Kite’s extended hovering,
treading air against gravity while searching
dry, blond grasses for the movement of a mouse—

expending more energy, it seemed, than a rodent
could provide. My feet grow heavy now
as I circumambulate this uneven ground

following seasons of grass with cows and calves,
praying for relief of flood or drought, hoping
to generate enough to do it all over again.

 

AMARYLLIS

 

 

The bulb Carolyn gave you years ago
rose between three boulders
where we lay the headless rattler

               to get young Katy
               to pay attention—
               running, dancing,
               always on her toes.
               Her shriek and cry
               cut to our souls.

Huge, bright-orange petals,
like tongues aflame
among adolescent coals—

               Summer Solstice,
               105 degrees—

saved to the shade
on the cold woodstove
to bloom for days,

to hold my eye
and expose
a slice of memory.

 

ROADRUNNERS, RATTLESNAKES & SNAILS

 

IMG_0218

 

Light feet at dawn
inspect Iris and Aloe Vera
to crack shells on the rock
border between gravel and lawn.

She curtsies like a ballerina
in a low, feathered quivering,
teasing, anticipating
the dance in a garden arena.

CHORUS:
               Beyond the reach of Covid-19,
               the divisiveness and hate—
               beyond the crazed confusion
               the fools among us imitate.

Birds multiplying here to a dozen
as watchdogs for the unwanted,
the rattlesnakes and snails,
beyond the reach of poison.

CHORUS:
               Beyond the reach of Covid-19,
               the divisiveness and hate—
               beyond the crazed confusion
               the fools among us imitate.

 

OR NOT

 

 

Hard to be a good guy, find
a melody for wannabe lullabies
overwhelmed by hard-rock thoughts

to make things right
or left, red or blue dominions
as if ordained by God

laughing up his sleeve
at the idiocy of humans
fashioned in his image.

We are merely ants in the anthill,
sub-atomic specks of insignificance
trying to get along—or not.