Tag Archives: Yokuts





Within a week of late October rains, a forest
of green blades twisting, chasing warm
golden light between canyon horizons,

reaching while we sleep to a waxing moon
sailing south across black starlit seas—
a germination thick as hair on a dog’s back.

Hard clay turned soft underfoot, under cloven
hooves, out of the bleached and brittle rubble
of last year’s feed, a spreading miracle of green

as the earth stirs with another birth of grass.
And we are tied to it, mentally shackled
and physically restrained to work within her

moody generosity, daring not with word
or thought to piss her off—we have our gods
and goddesses we adore, stealing glimpses

every chance we get outside to pause
and praise them. All our totems, the bird
and animal people of the Yokuts know

our names, know our habits, show us the way
this canyon was designed to support life,
here and beyond us, with a crop of grass.



  Weekly Photo Challenge: “Chaos”






Heads down, our future grazes green
on the edge of time, on ground
the river met with Dry Creek—

all the round cobbles mined
to build the county seat gone wild
with willows and cottonwoods,

natives claiming space we named
between the Kaweah and Wutchumna
Hill. Nothing is the same for us

or them as they mature to become cows.
Heads down, it is easy to forget
to look up at where we’ve come from.



Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Edge’






No longer children
chasing rainbows,
we want to believe

the drought is over—
look to the mountains
to shield our souls

from insistent cities
and a world at war.
Like native Yokuts

we want to believe
the ground can hold us
before we leave.



A trace of rain up-canyon yesterday afternoon as I looked up from my desk, inside after an 1.5” of rain, sorting poetry for another collection—working title: “The Best of the Dry Years”, 2013, 2014, 2015. A formidable task, like sorting 90 head from 900, it will take many more rainy days to complete.

The photo has that postcard-look of not quite real, a reminder of what a little rain can bring. Yet, I harbor some skepticism, not ready to say the drought is over, to set ourselves up for disappointment. But it sure feels good, nonetheless.


Weekly Photo Challenge(3): “Treat”




All the snakes in our mind
rise like cobras
from baskets of grass, or

flat heads parting dry stems
moving towards us.
Even the Yokuts tried

to tame them, or at the least
make peace with the dark
agents of the Underground.






Two centuries of women
gone beyond
healing and grinding,
needing shade
away from men—

dead Live Oak place
to roost for years,
our pair of crows
make familiar
flutters of love
balanced on a branch,
know one another’s
every feather,
preen and quiver
with how it feels
into the gloaming




IMG_5687 - Version 2


Thin veil of snow on the Kaweahs—
granite shows on peaks undressing.
The creek slows and disappears

as the thirsty earth drinks miles
from the river, puddled behind a dam
that will not fill the Valley’s furrows.

Tan medallions, last spring’s leaves
quiver from brittle fingers of oak trees
sprinkling green hills, giving centuries

of rainfall back as decomposing homes
for smaller survivors. It is not over
despite a forecast chance of rain—

dry seasons last, leave evidence only
years of floods can erase. Almost March,
the buzzards have returned early

circling an easy harmony of generations
gone—each clear voice rising,
we hear assurance and good advice.




In the shallow ground and clay,
mats of filaree cling like crimson moss
after frost as if holding their breath for rain.
Yet warm enough for mustard bloom
in ungrazed traps for cattle, bits of yellow
at the tender tips of leafy greens—
all of the same seed that natives came
from Badger to gather when I was young.
White heads of Shepherd’s Purse nod
in bloom above the short-cropped blades
of lusher grass as if already spring.
Steep south slopes struggle, more mottled
brown than green—we beg and wait for rain:
busy fixing fences, branding calves, feeding hay
to bloating cows after years of drought
as high-pressure herds a warm jet stream north
to feed Alberta Clippers East with unwanted snow.

We crave some sort of normal
that has become a hazy dream:
of cattle fat and happy, of time
to idly wile and waste
that old men will never see again.
Yet full of trust, trailing tidbits
from the gods, we chase it
like the feed truck still believing—
and that is normal despite extremes.




                        Then the man noticed that he didn’t
                        have any shadow. He went out and
                        looked around: nothing had any shadow.
                        He began to squint up his eyes, it was
                        all so bright. And wherever he looked
                        there were sharp little knives.

                              – William Stafford (“Stories To Live In The World With”)

We were but shadows on this ground,
young bulls bellowing into space
hoping for an answer in an echo—
not rivals down canyon pawing dirt.

We cast more shade now as we go
remembering the bluff and bluster
of manifest destiny—the arrogance
of greed blest by God—feeble-legged,

stumbling in cobbles along the creek.
If left alone for a century or two,
time will heal the tracks, erase mistakes
we might have better learned by.

It did not begin or end there. Three
hundred shadows passing in this canyon
when Sir Francis Drake stabbed
California sand for Queen Elizabeth I

leaving little sign of how their minds
worked grinding, making palatable
what was at hand until—you know
the rest—like echoes in these hills.

Pages welded together in dark corners,
transcripts in generational stacks
only attorneys dream of designing,
hold both petty and valuable details.

How it shook the old house, my father
overwhelming his in a thunderous
shouting match, a sparring over nothing
to hone a keen edge for the Corps.

Or the luxury of divergent dreams
of royalties instead of rent, in-laws
and family divided and divorced with
land—and from the tracks cut deep.

We are but shadows on this ground
passing beneath us as always, immigrants
in old space that cannot stay the same
in the new world that swirls around us,

an invisible adversary invading our air,
our flesh, this dirt we shall return to—
however gladly or reluctantly, to cast
no more shadows—at home at last.


= = = = = = = = = =

Stories To Live In The World With (Someday Maybe, 1973)

A long rope of gray smoke was
coming out of the ground. I went
nearer and looked at it sideways.
I think there was a cave, and some people
were in a room by a fire in the earth.
One of them thought of a person like me
coming near but never quite coming in
to know them.

Once a man killed another, to rob him,
but found nothing, except that lying
there by a rock was a very sharp,
glittering little knife. The murderer
took the knife home and put it beside
his bed, and in the night he woke
and the knife was gone. But there was
no way for a person to get in to take the knife.

The man went to a wise old woman.
When she heard the story, she began to laugh.
The man got mad. He yelled at the woman
to tell why she was laughing. She looked
at him carefully with her eyes squinted
as if she looked at the sun. “Can’t you
guess what happened?” she asked.

The man didn’t want to be dumb, so
he thought and thought. “Maybe the knife
was so sharp that it fell on the ground
and just cut its way deeper and deeper and
got away.” The woman squinted some more.
She shook her head. “You learned that from
a story. No, I will tell you why you
thought the knife was gone and why
you came here to ask me about it:
you are dead.”

Then the man noticed that he didn’t
have any shadow. He went out and
looked around: nothing had any shadow.
He began to squint up his eyes, it was
all so bright. And wherever he looked
there were sharp little knives.

This is a true story. He really was dead.
My mother told us about it. She told us
never to kill or rob.
At a little pond in the woods
I decided: this is the center of my life.
I threw a big stick far out, to be
all the burdens from earlier years.
Ever since, I have been walking
lightly, looking around, out of the woods.

                                                            – William Stafford

Courtesy of



December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010


If you want to feel whole again
sit with the creek and its meanderings
through the old sycamores here
before the Europeans landed
from another world
with new constraints and foreign religions
made to fit people and landscapes.

With this vein full in her flesh
flowing beneath green canopies
from shadows into light,
the canyon drinks
from yesterday’s dark clouds
as it reaches for the sky—
yearning for the source.

Lifeblood of the Bird and Animal People,
of the Yokuts and cattlemen,
it flows the same
when and where it wants—
washing the weak downstream,
yet bringing solace and sustenance
to those who can wait.





Work women left in rock,
tracks of generations
since creation.





“At Wuknaw — Creation Myth of the Yokuts”
WPC(2) — “Gone, But Not Forgotten”