a patient willing descent into the grass.
– Wendell Berry (“The Wish To Be Generous”)
Hemmed in silver moonlight, scattered
clouds linger over hills, no wet reflection
of the porch light. She has come and gone
without waking me with thunder, pellets
on the roof, not a leaky drip from the eave,
leaving nothing to remember her passing
by—not even her musty petrichor perfume
in the damp dark air to soothe my senses—
gone without a thought of waking me.
From a distance in the daylight, islands
of purple filaree look like dirt in graying
green, rolling dusty plumes follow cows
into water, yet they don’t seem to worry
into another winter without rain. Too
familiar, I read the signs with each synapse
shortened by the hard and dry. Too long
in the same place, I can see the weather
and the world have changed around me—
changed me as I retreat and try to adapt
like summer weed seed over time:
impervious to thirst and political herbicides.
and what’s the work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else, drunken
– Allen Ginsberg
I have no appetite for news, yet addicted
to reason less obvious
than the Emperor’s latest haberdashery.
Coffee conversation stops
to the quiet glide of a Cooper’s Hawk
beneath the roof overhead, limp legs
dangling, quail warm before breakfast.
She has chosen the four of us
to interrupt, to remind of naked grace
in a profane world—to ease the taloned
hold of the drunken dumbshow
before we hay the cows
and we feel blessed
for prolonged moments of wonder unwound
to remember who we are.
‘A WARNING TO MY READERS’
lives in the death of speech
and sings there.
~ Wendell Berry (“The Silence”)
My time is here
within the details—
small tracks that whisper words
I’ve yet to say or spell,
a great expanse opening
new frontiers beyond
the clatter, the cacophony
of commerce, the pomposity
of puppets geared
to create more fear.
Talons latch and lock,
eagles playing, practicing
pinwheels in the canyon
beyond the corrals.
There is no sound
from my open mouth
as they disappear
behind your hat, your horse,
Earl’s board fence
and our cows wanting
to get along.
No time to say
what will never be enough
or too much
before it’s over.
Vanity is absence.
– Wendell Berry (“Praise”)
Within the unfolding
among waves of leaves
shed like rain
for a moment
somewhere other than
and posed reflections.
to witness miracles
while the mundane dance
within the grace
of animated metaphors
in the half-light
of dusk and dawn.
on our knees
with gentle breath
to dry twigs
upon dying coals—
to shadows melting
around our fire.
I am growing downward,
smaller, one among the grasses.
– Wendell Berry (“Thirty More Years”)
I knew when I was young
and proud, I had found my place
on this ground—my limbs
could support me for as long
as they were sound—living
where the work was hard.
I was not afraid of time
and grinned at gravity,
rode the edges of ridges down
behind cattle, shaping me
to fit the landscape
eventually or die.
I scratch among the grasses now,
learn the language of birds
and flowers, the expression
of horses and families of cattle—
all the tattered glories of youth
bent closer to what counts.
Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.
– Wendell Berry (“The Sorrel Filly”)
Looming closer, a swirling darkness just beyond
the thought of summer’s water that is not
frozen deep in the Sierras to feed our rivers
and canyon leaks—of brittle fall and cattle
gathered at an empty trough. The creek dries back
and sinks in March, lifted to new canopies
of sycamores dressing. Skeletons of old oaks
stand out between greening survivors, some
wearing only clumps of yellow mistletoe
hanging like reasons, raisons—like raisins
clinging to a leafless vine. Each season
spins the same dry song, yet we find our place,
harmonize and sing along, lifted like precious
moisture to tender leaves, a basic ascension not
available in the big box stores, unrecorded
in the history of our presence. This may be
the new normal for old people—that daze
of amazement we have been working towards.
Posted in Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged "The Sorrel Filly", Blue Oak, cattle, Drought, Dry Creek, Kaweah, Kaweah River, poetry, rain, San Joaquin Valley, water, weather, Wendell Berry
Two months from Elko
busy branding calves,
begging for rain and grass,
we listen under an empty
overcast to “A Matter
of Believin’” as if Gail
were here with 100 years
of ranching lessons
in poetry and song.
South slopes all but done,
thin feed gray on clay
it’s time to love
this short spring
wrapped in wildflowers
with our old friend
and glass of wine—
the whole show
mostly behind us now,
we indulge ourselves,
embrace the storms
of good fortune
we have worn well—
believing and trusting,
adapting like cattle
to these same hills
just harvesting grass.
Posted in Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged "A Matter of Believin'", cows, Drought, Dry Creek, Gail Steiger, poetry, rain, weather, Wendell Berry, wildflowers
February 15, 2015
the green growth the mind takes
from the pastures in March;
– Wendell Berry (“Goods”)
Like cattle filling bellies
becoming whole to bloom,
resting early in the shade of limbs
awaiting leaves, the pastures pulse
with goodness for as far as I can see.
How spring seemed so much longer
when I was a boy, the world wider
as the hills came alive, breathing
easily as apparitions danced
upon the green between rains.
And it becomes us to overwhelm
all else—renewed proof and hope
for mankind—pattern and possibility
yet on this earth that we absorb
like grass. And we feed upon it.