Tag Archives: red sky




Not quite the answer
to a thousand prayers,
for weeks of dry cold,

green grass graying
and crispy filaree
dirt-brown at a distance—

the red sky afire
startles the senses
and rattles the leaves

of sycamores flaming
before dawn’s light
along the creek, all

waiting to undress,
to bare white limbs
reaching for a hard rain.


Though still understocked from the drought, we’ve been a busy gathering this week, patching fences, feeding hay. We’d have gladly postponed this morning’s branding if yesterday’s rain had measured more and the road too slick to get up into Greasy. But the 0.11” was a pleasant change and rejuvenated the color of the surviving green, if nothing more. The bulls have been busy trading places, demolishing fences around the Gathering Field. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the cattle will be there when we and our crew of good neighbors arrive this morning.




photo: Bodhi Rouse

photo: Bodhi Rouse


Never figured on a sunset,
children, grandchildren around
a smoky Live Oak fire,
the SoCal storm bleeding north

                    above a frost-bitten garden—
                    dry stem tomatoes
                    and peppers hanging
                    like ornamental gifts
                    for Christmas.

I thought I escaped California in 1970
to ride back through time, didn’t think
I’d camp in one place this long.

Never figured on iPhone photos,
satellite dish for shade—
or planning for a future
that depends on water
and obsolescence.




December 10, 2015

December 10, 2015


Small at first, rivers spill
High Sierra snowmelt,
water pure as it will ever be

falling to the call of gravity
and time’s relentless roar
over granite smooth, worn

by cataracts and cascades
dressed in rainbow mists
ascending to the whispers

among a million pines—
a timbered mat of arrows
headed to the sky.

We have been there
in our perfect innocence
before our courses

changed the world
as it changed us.
I think it was the waiting

for the war I never served
that made me see that
spilling the blood of boys

could not kill ideas
or forever eliminate
a differing philosophy.

Like water pooled
I am damned again
in someone else’s business

at the whims of men
I’ll never understand
beyond their lust for power

and their addiction to greed
while dancing to the tune
of men and women working

with their heads and hands.
I stay the slope and cling
to the sound of the river

chasing lyrics on paper
since the war—poor poetry
released like mist ascending

to the muse that must
report my plodding progress
to goddesses and gods.






First sign of a convoy at dawn
scout the sky eastward, small raft
of red on blue, I photograph

a promise of rain—then check
the Internet to bolster old saws
for shepherds and sailors

at the mercy of fickle gods
of weather and wonder
if our lover has returned—

how long will she stay?
Kindling split, we will be warm,
ignite the fire, cut wood and

carry ashes out until spring.
We are ready and prepared
to say goodbye to drought.


Dawn, October 1, 2015






March 14, 2014


Awakened slowly,
drinking promises of rain
with people on time.






March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014


Riding rafts of red above
clouds of dust,
we could breathe for a moment.






He was headed up the road smiling,
wearing a short-sleeved 1950s Hawaiian shirt—
a faded, light print on heavy, coarse muslin
with cuffs—happy with heaven or
from wherever he’d come.

He had time, an eternity—
wanted to see the barren heifers
you grain-fed, killed and gutted,
see the color of the fat—stopped-in
to ask me to go with him.

Years mean nothing in a dream.
We can replay, edit as we like,
take time-outs to maneuver the maze
of surprise details and survive
the fears we’ve disguised wide awake.

Some of the close ones arrive to reassure us
that they are well after escaping life—
that all we had hoped for them,
and they for themselves, exists within—
and from wherever they’ve come.





Day breaks into rafts of red,
early weather precursors for sailors
and shepherds in any shade

this side of the Sierras
as the sun bathes Nevada
with long shadows.

How we crave the changing
light on green, yellow willows
set afire as white-limbed sycamores

undress beside the creek—
how we need the miracle
of moisture to hold us altogether

before this ballyhooed
Storm of the Century lands
somewhere north of here.


Early Morning Writing



Fellow blogger menomama3, Life in a Flash and Wuthering Bites, has asked that I share my writing process.


To begin with,

I get up early, my writing habit for years. It’s black outside except for one unobtrusive mercury vapor light at the horse barn, not a sound in the canyon. This is my time. No ringing phone, no demands from the outside world. My mind is fresh from whatever dream possessed it while I slept and relaxed. Often a dream lingers inexplicably, sometimes a day or two with vivid images and interactions or just a fog of feeling I can’t explain. But bottomline, my mind is all mine for a couple of hours.

Staring at a blank white sheet is not as intimidating as it used to be, and more often than not I already have a line strumming in my head, perhaps one garnered from my sleep. If not, because this is my discipline to write every morning, I have several collections from poets I admire on my desk that I may open randomly, and many on the shelf if the ones close at hand don’t help my inspiration.

In either event, the first line goes down. It may become the third line, last line, but in the process, that’s unimportant. By the third or fourth line of the first stanza, I’ll probably reorganize the first line anyway, or trash it altogether. I edit while I write, unlike many poets I know. My poetry is somewhat lyrical, and this jousting around in the first stanza or two, I think, is to set the meter or rhythm of the poem. I tend towards internal rhyme, it seems, and lean on it heavily to establish, or reestablish, meter.

I may approach the page with strong purpose, but most of the time I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and that’s the fun part. This grazing livestock culture relies heavily on metaphor, on personification, on anthropomorphic (new word, Suzanne?) explanations, and with that, a unique vernacular I also try to utilize in my poetry, as my own way of thinking.

I depend on details that I visualize to turn a line in a poem, a cause and effect, hands-on approach, and allow myself to feel the action, to become vulnerable and human, hoping to connect with readers beyond my world.

And why?

Reclusive by nature, the cattle culture has been under siege for generations. Hollywood has not helped our reputation, nor have a half-dozen well-meaning campaigns originating in town to oust us from the land, often in favor of development or other extractive industries. Our livelihoods are dependent on the renewable resource of grass. In it for the long term, we do everything we can to keep the ground, and our cattle, healthy. Land and cattle, we are one family, and that comes first.


come when time allows, I have several in my head: a chapbook with a working title of The Dry Years (surely to sell like hotcakes) and a perfect-bound, larger collection that will include the chap; also an eBook of photographs and haiku, when I can find a format as kind to the photographs as wordpress has been.