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
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
Long stiff with the sweat of years,
I see myself beneath its dust, retired
from the common ignorance of haste.
All the timed events, all the wild cattle
made by the chase are scars etched
in fragile leather, some in my brain
as sweet memories of riding high,
shoulder to shoulder in the gather
of good men shaped by this landscape
that will outlast us in the end. Too soon
old, they say, too late wise, I could
always have taken better care of time,
thrown away the watches and clocks
and invested it in the real observation
of other living things—even the smallest
of which has a mission to teach us
the hard way. And what I fail to see—
this slow creak of bones will illuminate.
With crystal clarity, stars throb
before the storm moves in at dawn,
black air clean clear to infinity,
leaky bucket worlds peeking-in
the window as I wake from sleep—
another promised day of needed rain.
Once, we took the day off,
went to town, visited neighbors,
congratulated nature for the extra holiday.
A machine takes messages
from a nine-to-five real-world
ordered to make hay on rainy days—
and I listen, hoping no one wants me
but time, time to ride the prolonged rage
of a loud and sudden thunderstorm.
Yearning is an easy look
backwards, a slow-moving canvas
colored to taste, shaded by habit.
Our war whoops but echoes
fading in canyons on trails of broken
brush long-overgrown, mocking
our wild-eyed blindness
since sharpened and tempered
by scars upon scars and time.
Now is the moment we begin
to be all we can—to revel
in its rich accomplishment.
No ceremony, no celebration
when we arrive, when we allow
the shroud of time to embrace
all fears and then dispel them.
We hang on the edge, hold
each breath until the next
turn of the sun. How could we
have known such peace exists
when we were chasing rabbits
for the sport of it, wasting time?
Ask the old dog in the shade
if he is satisfied with his magnificent
dreams, with his clever editing
now that he knows he’ll never return.
Who would we be without them?
Early yet in an early spring,
growing patches, orange-gold,
claim open slopes like flames,
Fiddleneck between gray skeletons
of Blue Oaks pushing bud,
feathery translucent leaves
where the gods walk ridges,
wave hands to paint,
adding color to hillside green
we’ve not seen tall in years.
Out of dust and naked dirt,
new mosaics, lush with moments,
openings for everything put off
in drouth—real work we absorb,
take our sweet time to recognize.
WPC(2) — “Orange”
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged Blue Oak, Drought, Dry Creek, photographs, poetry, real work, time, weather, weekly-photo-challenge, wildflowers
December 28, 2013
Shedding a few leaves early, the sycamores
have begun to turn, quit taking water,
teasing me with peeks of more alabaster flesh
at a distance—first moves before the sway
of winter’s naked dance along the creek—
sandy cobbles like rafts of human skulls now.
On my morning circle of first-calf mothers,
I check the spots where water rises first
behind the granite dikes beneath damp sand
and short-cropped green as if I might
hurry time, escape into the future cool and wet
and wait like a rabbit for tortoise to catch up.
Mid-San Joaquin summer,
you can set your watch
by cows coming off the pasture
to Valley Oaks at seven-thirty—
back out into the blazing sun
by noon, breezes off the green.
Not one gossipy complaint
among them, chewing cuds,
relishing the timeless shade.