clutch the fate of the planet
with thin filament.
I once dreamed I might have been
a mountain man in another life,
trapped cats and coyotes
instead of beaver—
learned to view the world
through untamed eyes
assessing sign as I became
the prize and placed my twigs
and scents accordingly.
I sifted dirt
to hide the jaws
while writing poetry:
from a fishing filament
still fascinates me.
We grow wild beneath
the Red Tail’s cry
for company, beside
the dragging sound
of snake bellies
on well-drained dirt.
We fold our petals, sleep
to insistent tree frog songs
as the moon dances
upon the rippling creek,
of where it comes from.
And when we bloom,
we draw bugs as lovers
to inspire seed, clusters
of small town colors
beneath the Red Tail’s cry
We know the sound, feel it
pound our flesh, reverberate
in our skulls, draw sinew tight
to hold on—to the moment
fleeting, bucking, kicking loose
the last of common sense.
No ordinary ride in the park
upon watered lawns spaced
between pampered shade trees,
we recognize the scent
of rain on sudden gusts,
feel skin shrink, follicles lift
us up, and the sweet cud
swirling above bovine beds,
flat mats of grass awakening.
Not quite wild, we are captive
in a maze of weathered hills,
fractured rock and families
of oaks where shadows slip
and voices stalk—whisper one
more metaphor upon our lips.
“listen to that music.
The self we hold so dear will soon be gone.”
– Gary Snyder (“Anger, Cattle and Achilles”)
I’ve packed a rifle since I was ten
following cow trails in these hills
listening to music: the Red Tail’s cry,
its feathers rush overhead,
plummeting for fun—a calling
to another life without accouterments.
In time, we collect clear moments
of ourselves, fresh glimpses stamped
and saved that weigh nothing, cost
nothing, yet live behind our eyes.
No word for the first murmur
of a cow to its wobbly, wet calf
forever branded in our brains—
no word for the outside music
played with poetry and song.
Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Careful” / “Full of Care”
You could hear them
from the squash and cucumbers,
from the tomatoes where the rattler
stretched upon damp dirt to cool his belly,
in that no man’s land of prickly pear
and grape canes claiming shade trees
on the periphery of ripening vegetables—
their incessant tittering within: military
training before their first tour of the garden
scouted at the peak of heat days before,
our lawn of weeds this side of roadrunners
nesting in the cottonwood under
the surveillance of a pair of crows.
The only green for miles of hard
baked clay and blond dry fuzz,
a microcosm of good wet years,
the wild moves in, gathers to include
us—horses, dogs and feral cats—
into a sustainable family.
Tree frogs on the move, hopping
sojourns at dusk and dawn bring
the King snake tracking Garter snakes
that ignore us, stay out from underfoot.
We have no choice but to share
our little space and water in a drought.
We will count the covey into the future,
measure training into evenings, watch
for Bobcats and Coopers Hawks on patrol.
No place for soft hearts, politics,
or too much attention—no one wants
or can afford to run for election.
When the wind blows up canyon,
first light gray,
I am the old red horse,
twenty-five, bucking in place.
We never loose it, that wanting
stirred and satisfied—
to be wild again
when everything is right.
We feel his feeble effort,
hooves barely off the ground,
our whoops and cheers
howling on a damp wind.
Of all the spontaneous art, none
more trustworthy, more enthralling
than the wild mirrors—of heart
and grace without guilt pulsing
to get free, rising with the ascension
of ducks from cattails, clear droplets
raining from webbed feet etched
to hang on white cloud walls
to draws us in—and then, like
windows out to where we might
want to be—like poetry, learning
to fly with words a little at a time.
I imagine that the young men
I went to school with have retired
by now, given up their desks
for free-wheeling possibilities
to coast downhill grades, collecting
their rewards and all the promises made
to themselves, over and over again.
I truly wish them all the best.
And I suspect the girls have become
wise grandmothers with practical advice,
keeping secrets in ceramic cookie jars
with noisy lids like I remember.
Leaving with Stafford, I retire
from a world too large to digest,
and go to that far place for the familiar
sign, those recognizable tracks
where wild makes sense of circumstance.
We are collecting short stories
like mushrooms in wicker baskets
before they fade and melt into the ground,
discussing how we’ll sauté them over fire
in butter and garlic to melt in our mouths
instead. Already we can feel their wild
flavor rage in our veins, like venison,
as we shed the old flesh, find keen eyes.
All the ghosts will rise beneath the stars
to gather at our fire, faces flickering
in the darkness to share the light.