Fires in the night flicker on different faces,
candlelit or shadows borne from torches,
glowing herds driven by separate forces:
Black & white
Love & hate
Wood & steel
of celestial guitars—how loathing
corrupts the innocent and trusting,
all the possibilities of anything more.
Robbin, July 2011
The answer in art appeals,
resides within, not without.
It adds, it multiplies
boundlessly: fresh, unnamed
senses like ripples from a pebble
spreading across pools
we harbor in our hearts
apart from politics,
from the legions of agendas
to satisfy the appetites
of power and greed
where might is right.
Art is not correct
and never stays the same,
illusive as the canyon wren’s
cascading song—I hear it now
again for the first time:
bear clover forever stirred
in memory miles away
in time and distance
trout fishing as a boy.
In the churning air we breathe
the latest news cascades from mountaintops,
waterfalls of misty details stream instantly
around us, tugging eddies we ignore
like bad dreams—waking to
and shaking off nightmares of fear
we carry on, we persevere.
How I envy cattle and coyotes
their ignorance, poor dumb beasts
with habits honed day by day,
moon to moon. Greeted by heifers,
nearly yearlings coming into season,
I can feel their flesh crawl with heat
beneath tight black hides that shine—
each day yet a new confusion.
It will suffice to linger among them
reading poetry under my breath
until they bore with my poor intellect.
I know all the old horses
and the men who rode them
to their ridgeline bleachers.
Full moon August rises atop
her perfect breast perfectly
after all these years, centuries,
eons—I am relieved from
the world inside this galaxy,
this tug of war for power,
gravity without compassion.
I lean toward the heavens
and the far ridgetops,
send roots deep
to good water and wait
until my moment is up.
They own the air we breathe.
Jim Harrison (“Old Bird Boy”)
Spring delivered a clan of blackbirds
to the Coastal Redwood thick with dead
limbs too far from home. Quick fighter pilots
patrolled the air and drove away the crows
like coyotes baiting cows from newborn,
from their egg nests—hurried off the hawks,
dived-bombed the dog when fledglings fell
before they left, gave up the lawn to families
of quail, little tikes on wheels from winter’s
prunings piled to dry before burning,
bringing summer coveys from the garden’s
damp cover to explore the rest of their world.
Hummingbirds hover the hibiscus. Black-headed
Phoebe’s wait from the backs of chairs
for flying insects that cloud our breathing.
Our space grows still in the summer baking
as a Cooper’s Hawk claims the air,
walks the rail to bathe beneath a sprinkler.
We wear the struggles here
like scars, deep furrows cut
by joy and pain upon our flesh
rising bravely before dawn.
What tracks we leave will fade
eventually, the dust and rust
of dreams that tried to dance
with gravity and grace.
the titter of quail
the coyote’s howl,
screech of an owl—
to put words to.
It is an art, writing songs
beneath our breaths,
all the old mantras
matching the heartbeat
of living things, the wild refrains
that beg release instinctively,
caring not for praise—only
space to turn them loose.
Currently the quail have the evening stage as Mother Nature usurps the garden and moves closer to the house as if we put the props in place for their entertainment. The quail have had an extraordinary hatch this year, hundreds of birds in dozens of coveys of various ages explore the yard in waves of gray.
Still housebound but rehabbing well, my photography is limited to what’s before me with the point-and-shoot, isolated snapshots that don’t fully portray the larger theme of the show. Accompanied and herded by attentive adults acting as sentinels, the young birds feed across the lawn to eventually let curiosity lead them a stray. One, then another follows, until half the young covey considers the latest discovery. Not one bird tried to drink from our ‘sip and dip’, knowing the water level too far to reach without falling, without flailing wet feathers and drowning.
Our yard: a classroom
for rural children come
out of granite rockpiles
and deadfall limbs woven
with blond, brittle grasses—
like a field trip to town,
a damp green and water
oasis they should know
when its 110 degrees.
Our yard: a classroom
for survival as Mother Nature
picks apples, apricots, peaches
and pears before they’re ripe,
before they’re sweet.
The ground squirrels know
our habits, when it’s best
to harvest, the sound of
footsteps on the gravel,
and the gunshot taken
for the team
we’ve not dissuaded.
Tail like a wagging semaphore
upon a rock, high-pitched chirps
penetrate my idle thoughts beyond
the flea-bitten ground squirrel
eyes trying to focus, mesmerized
by the slightest movement
of the approaching snake.
Not too old to remember,
I do not have to watch to know
what goes on in the world. We
either escape or make peace
with the snake over breakfast.
Fractured granite baked in clay,
drought-bare slopes now soft with grass
in waves of sun-bleached blond
await the eventide of shrinking light
as shadows climb, retreat into the black
of night as we raise a glass of wine
to gods returned and sigh—knowing
nothing will ever be the same again
in our minds, or how we pray for more
holidays of rain than we need
in this canyon envelope of heat
we graze from shade to shade.
Dawn waits beyond the black
robe that cloaks the undulating
ridgeline before we spin
into sunrise, most everyday
without clouds or rain
that we hope for, that we forgive
in our routines plodding toward
little change. Horses wait
for the screen door’s slap,
dogs rush to clear
the well-worn path,
quail scatter to start the day—
small details wait to be seen,
hide in the shrinking shadows
of unwritten scripts.