Tag Archives: Robinson Jeffers

VIOLENCE

 

 

                                                                                Why do we
                    invite the world’s rancors and agonies
                    Into our minds though walking in a wilderness?

                              – Robinson Jeffers (“Going to Horse Flats”)

All the props in place, the stage is ever-set
for calamities, for the struggles for power,
for deceit in scripts yet unwritten, but predictable.

                    Two Red Tails strafe a passing eagle
                    reluctantly retreating to a steep hillside
                    to stand his ground, claim his space

                    to face their withdrawal. We watch snakes
                    squeeze and swallow one another whole
                    as the bobcat waits upon the tailings of a burrow—

this world, and that beyond it, turns on violence
despite our protests, despite our compromises,
despite the logic of compassion to dissuade it long.

 

IT IS AN ART

 

Mt. Tamalpais – L.E. Rea (1868-1927)

 

                              …the cold passion for truth
                    Hunts in no pack.

                         -Robinson Jeffers (“Be Angry at the Sun”)

It is an art
not to be swept up
in the turbulence,

not to fear the storm
of words etched
in electric thunder,

when our ear drums can’t
quit reverberating
with the latest blow

from a hundred anvils
busy reshaping the truth
to fit the moment.

It is an art to savor silence,
to listen to where it leads
to what you know.

 

HIGHWAY ONE

 

 

                                        I hope that the weathered horseman up yonder
                                        Will die before he knows what this eager world
                                                will do to his children.

                                                     -Robinson Jeffers (“The Coast-Road”)

I wonder now if Jeffers grins up yonder
with his horseman looking down
at the bluff-chiseled road they cursed

in the building, failing once again,
cut and fill slipping into the Pacific
after fire and 83 inches of rain.

Damage done, where have his children
gone to join the present, to succumb
to the latest newness man has wrought

to sell as necessary convenience?
Moving mudslides have closed the road
to the outside world to heal in private,

to rejuvenate the majestic ruggedness—
the awe and respect for the weather-carved
shaping always the character of man.

 

BE ANGRY AT THE SUN by Robinson Jeffers

 

 

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors,
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante’s feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let the boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

 

The Excesses of God

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                                                                      by Robinson Jeffers

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

 

Robinson Jeffers

 

WAY OUT WEST, 2016

 

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Robbin and I know where we belong, that we have grown old while the world has changed around us. We think of our parents and grandparents, understand their frustrations with progress.

The Academy of Western Artists “seeks to preserve the traditional values associated with the cowboy image despite consolidation in the cattle industry and changes in contemporary society. The group hosts an annual awards show.”

Yesterday, with two of our cattle neighbors, we were headed to Forth Worth to meet my son who had flown in from San Francisco, where I was to receive the Buck Ramsey Cowboy Poet of the Year award and have some fun. This morning we’re on Dry Creek, he’s in Fort Worth.

                                        ~

We know the feeling of corrals
in airports, and prepare ourselves
to be bunched-up, to wait in lines
at every gate—to follow rules

for humans. We should have known
red fire trucks as an omen,
but we loaded-up, anyway,
found our seats and waited.

I was a mountain man in another life
dodging Indians and ole Ephraim,
knew them all and their stories
and started reading. About the time

Hugh Glass met the grizzly’s cubs,
the captain came on the intercom
to say it’ll be a short, or long, wait
to leave for Dallas, to find the trouble

with the engine gauge, maybe just
a loose wire. I am a slow reader,
but by the time they started patching
Hugh Glass’s bloody body up,

we deplaned to rebook our flight—
190 head, three hours in the lead-up
to be processed. No way to get
to Dallas and keep the four of us

together, no other plane to haul
the human cargo—no way to share
awards and ceremony. (They kill
the man
, anyway, Jeffers said.)

Way Out West beyond the claustrophobe,
we should be proud of plans
that we expect—that have to get—
the work done, where we depend

on few, but in the corrals, numb
humans herding humans used to
to corporate calculations failing—
we treat ourselves and cattle better.

                                          for Temple Grandin

 

PANCAKE POPPIES

 

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We, all of you with me,
travel miles of spring saved
by a thunderstorm—Jeffers’

old violence not too old
to beget new values

blinding splotches of gold,

bright pancake poppies
a squinted eye can’t absorb.
We are rich, wealthy in places

we cannot spend away
from here, yet want to take,
steal with a camera

to share with the poor
punching clocks, chasing dollars
in corrals they have built.

 

WITH EASE

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                                        Old violence is not too old to beget new values.
                                                            – Robinson Jeffers (“The Bloody Sire”)

With ease, we have evolved to softer versions
of ourselves—no longer lean, Dust Bowl men
in coveralls waiting for work and a weather change,

sinew no longer strained to stretch the harvest
of endless furrows. Within earshot of lamenting
old men leaning on fences, I was part of a future

doomed with easy-living, and so I have been
by comparison, yet with little time for visiting
face-to-face, eye-to-eye. We have become immune

to the violence next door, alive in cyberspace, and
deaf to war—the clash of sword-on-shield or bigger
better guns barking how to cull the herd—with ease,

we have evolved to envy dumb animals and birds
in touch with the sky, yearning for ignorance
and bliss. And all the old values now lost to youth.

 

Early Morning Writing

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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.

Projects

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.

 

NEW FRONTIERS

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                               Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
                               Our God?

                                     – Robinson Jeffers (“The Excesses of God”)

A boy goes outside looking for adventure
on new ground, catching disappearing glimpses
of her skirts through the trees, and he is ready
to tame the West where there are no rules—
ready to leave his mark upon the landscape.

After a lifetime, all the hackneyed, black
and whited-hatted heroics sound like the same
song, boom or bust flashes in the pan
that end badly, sadly leaving her abandoned
flesh as landmarks in a state of disgrace.

An old man goes outside looking for other
frontiers to get lost within, to follow wild
details that teem with heart in all things—
hawk and stone, tree and grass—to be assured
of the rainbowed superfluousness of his God.