Tag Archives: poetry

VERTIGO

 

 

Always on the edge of it,
the Valley fades into flat farms
and busy towns we have forgotten
beyond our circle of foothill cows.

Visalia lies somewhere in the haze.
Up and down the state
commerce churns cars between
RVs and trucks on US 99

we can’t see—yet tension turns
a wheel away as I leave
my window framed
in drought-killed trees,

yet still standing to screen
my wobbly presence
near the edge of it—I retreat
to more solid ground.

 

EARLY MORNING GATHER

 

 

The days of busting brush
but polished stories, faded glories
washed by time upon this ground—

one-time mothers, the girls
remember, find their place
at feeders in the corral

where they were weaned,
to catch a ride uphill
to make homes for fall calves.

We have spoiled them, trained
for yet another moment
to work together. Too hot

to touch, the days blaze
soon after the shade of night
retreats in streaks of heat.

 

 

Robbin’s iPhone photo after following the girls into the corral. It’s been a warm week with temperatures over 110 degrees as we’ve weaned, processed and shipped our last load of bull calves to town. Polite and cooperative, these second-calf heifers hauled easily to Greasy while it was still cool. A smooth day—done before ten.

 

THUNDERHEAD

 

 

Our temperatures have been peaking about 5:00 p.m. as thunderheads roll up the Great Western Divide. In line with Big Meadows and Cedar Grove on the Kings River, yesterday’s cell built and lasted about 30 minutes while we baked in 111 degrees on Dry Creek. Forecasters promise more of the same through the weekend. After a heat spell like this one, we usually begin to acclimate well-enough to look forward to 100. But at the Solstice, it seems forever for the sun to go down.

 

 

From Valley heat
great white ships rise
and ride the ridges,
buck canyons up
to pound with thunder
and dump with rain—
glorious downpours
I can smell
in the pines
and cedar duff
sixty miles away.

 

SUMMER SOLSTICE 2017

 

 

Wild bull calves we never knew
well-enough to brand
with months of rain,

creek too high to cross,
roads too wet to travel,
all gone to town now—

big enough to breed
their sisters yet to be
marked and aborted.

We thought the drought
was bad. But all the politics
and manipulated markets

yield to the variables
of Mother Nature’s bronc ride,
every jump, kick and surprise

without warning, never boring
when the weather gets her head
between her front legs.

As she warms up
to 113 degrees, we’ll see
what we’re made of.

 

 

We’re now on Mexican time: up at daylight and inside by eleven for lunch and a siesta. I am amazed how well the cattle, and especially the calves in the weaning pens, have managed to deal with the heat. Our ‘sip and dip’ has gotten plenty of use this past week, cools our flesh to the bone. Thank you Canadian Joe Hertz, fiddler for Cowboy Celtic, for your stone mason work!

 

ODE TO GOOD HORSES

 

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Helping Earl meant bring your best
horse to stay ahead of trouble,
especially in Sulphur, a mount

that could cross the brushy draws
and stand up in scree, I’d imagine
the night before my young dreams—

a bay gelding who could read
the minds of renegades at 200 yards,
or the boot-tough brown mare

from Rudnick’s broncs before him.
They spent their lives making me
more helpful than I was, in or out

of the corrals. It was always Western
and I’d wake to saddle in the dark,
to be on time for wild adventure, enough

for all spread across the watershed—
simultaneous, far-flung accounts
polished in the shade for future poetry.

 

PARTNERS

 

 

On and off the trail
they’ve learned to work together
and with us as well.

 

EVENING COMMUNION

 

 

Born knowing
a universal language,
a curious vocabulary
without words,
cattle gather at water
and visit with horses
before darkness falls.

 

GARDEN

 

 

Till and seed,
irrigate and weed,
feed Br’er Rabbit.

Plant and prune,
spray and fertilize,
feed Br’er Squirrel.

 

SHELTER OF THE STORM

 

 

Drawn to a summer storm
built out of blue clouds
at dusk, I am swept up

into the gusts before
the dark sky cracks
with jagged light

all around touching down—
distant rumbles roaring
closer by as the earth

shakes. I am alive within
it and myself, perhaps
afraid, but exhilarated

to have escaped
the latest episode
to miss the evening news.

 

ENSKYMENT

 

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                                         …what an enskyment; what a life after death.
                                                          – Robinson Jeffers (“Vulture”)

One never knows the vehicle of our transformation,
our transportation to nether or aether realms
dispatched perhaps on a buzzard’s back.

                         Jeffers feigning death
                         teased it close enough to be
                         eye-to-eye with a glorious ascension
                         upon black sails in the sea light
                         veering over his rugged,
                         coastal precipice.

On my boyhood, cow trail hunts
for squirrels and rattlesnakes,
I had in tow my wake of vultures
riding foothill thermals—Nature’s keen
garbage men keeping the earth clean—

                         I asked my father once,
                         ‘how could they find death
                         hidden in weeds
                         from so high up?’
                         ‘Perhaps,’ he said,
                         ‘it is their sense of smell.’