Poems from Vandevert Ranch
Up before the world,
the house dimly lit by hidden sun,
I lift my eyes through the tall east window.
Clouds like red and yellow lava flow
glowing across the sky, serrated by treetops below
and bruised by purple above.
I put the kettle on for coffee, grind the dark earthy beans.
The sky is paler now. White mist rises
from the meadow I still cannot see.
The river, a sliver of light in black obscurity,
reflects the clouds. Faint rays catch
the Adirondack chairs that could be gravestones.
Mounded willow shapes appear, and yellow grass
beside them. This world is mine alone to see
right now, not even a deer on the lawn.
I will be out in that world this afternoon,
lounging in a wooden chair, reading a hard book,
and waving to kayaks in the high bright sun.
Swimming the Lake
One last time I’ll swim the lake,
And set an aged mark before my death.
My younger self would swim for risk’s own sake,
No drills, no plan, no running ever out of breath.
I’ve trained for this with goggles, caps, and paddles,
With coaches, clocks, kicks, and endless strokes.
Reach forward, pull under, breathe easy, push and ski-daddle.
I’ve built my shoulders firm as old growth oak.
I flinch as my face hits cold dark water,
One stroke, one kick, I start my one-man race,
I part the water, scatter fish, and flush an otter.
My timer, rowing, grows breathless keeping pace.
I swim as fast as my breathless blood can sustain;
I’ll never be able, I know, to swim this fast again
Old and New: A Bargain Struck
Gracie, eighty-seven, visits us each year
on the four-generation homestead
on the Little River. She’s pleased to see us city-dwellers
playing westerners – hats and horses, our branches
grafted onto the roots of her history.
woven into the land like trees and bitterbrush.
Our twenty family histories wrenched from elsewhere
are united by contract, by love of the meadows and woods,
and by the generations that were here before us –
We walk the land the ranchers walked, note the river’s flood and drop.
Sunset over Bachelor, moonrise over Paulina, may our hearts
Beat for each other, and for the ranch, as their hearts once did.
We ride our bikes to the barn after supper, aged
heads in helmets we never wore as children.
We’ve come to see the sunset, and check on Monroe,
who’s not our horse and whom we’ve never ridden.
The biggest in the corrals but small for a Clydesdale,
white face and legs, brown body, patient manner.
We walk to the weathered log railing and call him.
He shambles to us, dust shuffling
beneath his hooves. We pat his hide
but only feel his ribs, his face
slack against his skull. We rip grass he cannot reach
And offer it. On Monday to the vet, on Wednesday, dies.
Three people we loved we lost this year,
One aneurism, another, and a heart attack,
But Monroe, Monroe we said goodbye to.
Self-satisfied summer clouds, floating like icebergs,
space smaller clouds amongst them, barely more than wisps.
I pick one to watch, stretching itself to nothing.
For a mile or two around me, hundreds could see these islands
though few, I think, are looking. Maybe a boy lying in the grass,
hoping for thunder. He does not notice my cloud. No one does.
Tomorrow I will forget that vapor ever was. You will too.
You and I will dissipate as quickly, in the galaxy’s long span,
yet our corner of space and time is real as any, now or ever.
Greedy for Summer
Give me, Pennonica, butterflies and dragonflies, elk and quail. Give me blue blue skies to gaze at in your eyes. Give me summer, summer, summer, its embrace as from a lover. Summers I remember. Their bright, bright days, their twilights soft and endless. This is not forever. Come with me to the water, stay with me forever, hold my hand in our wooden chairs. Build with me a fortress, nestled in the trees, where evil ghosts can never reach us. We’ll watch the winds brush past the willow. Come rest your golden head upon my pillow. There is hope for those of us who love the most.