October- Week 4

October 23, 2012

Bareknuckle

He wrapped a bandage tight around his battered knuckles
to stanch the flow of blood. His buddies ponied up
the cash to keep his pitcher full of beer, their chuckles
inviting him to tell again about the whup

he’d laid on that there thief, the way he went and slugged
the noisy little dude that interfered with his
prerogative to hear the song he picked. While drugged
with alcohol, he’d made it his especial busi-

ness setting matters square by punching out the lights
that darkened his already ugly mood. Fort Knox
would barely cover debts owed on his ranch—his sights
lit on the quarter stuck inside that damned juke box.

C.B. Anderson, the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden, spent his formative years in Blue, Arizona where, in the late 70’s, he worked for neighboring ranchers (Clell & Katharine Lee) at the stupendous rate of $5/day. He has castrated many a bull-calf and eaten the grisly harvest that was grilled on site atop the rusty iron cylinder in which the branding irons were heated red-hot by a propane torch. His poems on other subjects have appeared in many print and electronic journals internationally.

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The Cowboy Who Counted the Stars

At days tattered close, head nodding to rest
His ride for the day is now done,
He thinks of the hours whose total won’t count
“Cause he only gets paid sun to sun.

His eyes shift above a duster of red
That rakes blowing sand from the wind,
He’s glad day is made but knows in his heart
Before long, another begins.

Reins still in his hand he steps to the ground
Tipping his hat with a nod,
He lets go the cinch to bring back the breath
Then takes stock of the four that are shod.

The dust billows free as he raises a leg
And gives his worn boot a good stomp,
His horse now at ease as it chases the ground
Looking for some sweet grass to chomp.

With care, a brush, and sure measured strokes,
To her mane and her flank and her withers,
Sweeping tangles and brambles, knotting the tail
She speaks thanks to him when she shivers.

Deep purples and reds are all that remain
Of the sky that was painted pure blue,
The sun cutting west will be dipping below
As night waits to answer its queue.

Hobbling his mount to the picket line
He knows she’ll be safe for the night,
Covering his traps with a dusty ole tarp
Resting easy, ’cause all is put right.

Upon a soft meadow his bed is unrolled
Then he studies a vast sparkling sky,
He asks if there was ever a count,
Of the stars ’cause it takes a sharp eye.

Repeating the question for no one to hear
Thinking, “Cowboy, now how can this be,
That no one has counted the lights in the sky
Are they leaving it all up to me?”

Begin the tally from a well-chosen point
Should you have to start over it’s plain,
The northern star on the handle shines bright
To preface your celestial domain.

The counting established with nary a slip
He knows he’ll not stop ’til its penned,
With thousands to reckon he can’t miss a one
At least, that is what he intends……

Darkness now past, the camp’s in a stir
As the riders crawl out of their rolls,
Saddles are creaking, horses are speaking
Big Augur recalls these poor souls.

Rousted from sleep, he’s not quite awake
As he raises an eye toward the heavens,
He remembers the count of nights’ flickering lights
But was sure there were more than eleven……

Robert L. Penven Sr.
70 years of age, the patriarch of a rather large family/grand kids included. He served in the United States Marine Corps from June 1961 to January 1966. Honorably discharged at the time of separation. From 1967 until 1992, and served with the New Jersey State Police as a state trooper. Since the time of retirement Robert has taught tennis under the auspices of the United States Professional Registry, and has been employed as a finished carpenter and later years an assistant to an airplane mechanic. Hobbies are many, aversions are few. He likes writing stories and poems, and this is his first real publication, but he did submit poetry to his college magazine in 1975 and it was published for the benefit of the student body, probably not so much for himself. Now you know more about Robert Penven than you probably should.

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October- Week 3

October 16, 2012

‘Liquid Cowboy’

Michael Baca is an art teacher in New Mexico and also Cowboy Poetry Press Art Editor in his spare time, outside of his own painting and sculpting.

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Cloudbusters

by Rosalyn Marhatta

Gloria held happiness
in a blue calico bag
resting between her breasts,
those crests of flesh spilling
out of a brown linen dress
hiding a corset and pantaloons
of French flowered lace.

She marched to the tune
of the Pied Piper of Mirth,
to the dance of chance
to honeyed notes of a sonnet
pressed in a book
in a secret pocket
where love’s call rang out,
out of tune.

Her smile chased clouds
from the sky till the crops
went dry. Then the cry
for rain brought the rainmaker
to town, a cloudbuster with bluster
and a mustache he’d stroke
to stoke passion in young women.

His words were a potion
and Gloria fell into his pocket
for burnt kisses, promises
of wind chimes on a prairie porch,
a mule to pull the plow,
a child to tug at her pink
gingham skirt.

She never spoke sorrow
till that rainmaker came
to steal her calico pouch,
sack her pocket of poems
with his kiss of bliss,
then run to chase rain
in another sky.


********

Memory and Sacrifice

I can still smell
the kerosene lamps
in my father’s house,
their soft glow
illuminating
my grandmother’s
harmonium like dusk
in late summer.
The top was cut down
for the journey
across the plains―
the excess wood
first to be burned
along the trail.

Justin Evans was born and raised in Utah, but now I live in rural Nevada with my wife and three boys, where I teach a variety of subjects at the local high school.  I have been in the military, graduated from Southern Utah University with a degree in History and English Education, as well as a Master’s Degree from University of Nevada, Reno.  I have published four chapbooks and the full length poetry collection, Town for the Trees (Foothills Publishing, 2011).  I have poetry forthcoming in Weber—The Contemporary West.  I also edit the on-line journal, Hobble Creek Review.

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Dakota

I buried Dakota in her favorite dress,
calico snug, said a prayer that I’d never
have another daughter born in a black blizzard.
I looked out over the clay gullies,
the impossible fossils rising like
hands. Flung her floppy sunhat over
the empty coulee. The dog barked.
In time, her pups would fetch it, bring it
back to the ranch. As if they knew something
by sheer dog sense. I looked East,
prayed for sorghum and flaxseed,
sunflower and milk-veined maidens.
Saw Dakota in the parting lips of clouds,
low and moving over drought and badlands,
saw her pantomime and sway
before the young moon,
her voice over the Cheyenne,
over cottonwood and willow
gently mocking me, the way it did
when she pressed my hands to her cheeks,
she, so numb from the cold, from chasing
the sheep that strayed. On top of this
bare hillside, I looked everywhere,
hoping for a sign of the next harvest.
It would keep me above ground,
this body of sod, mind of open spaces,
for another year.

Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. He lives and writes in New Jersey.

October- Week 2

October 10, 2012

INGALLS LOST LEDGE OF GOLD

Sister Elizabeth, I am sure

Your telling me the truth like the real lyrics

To dead Duane Allman’s song “Sweet Melissa”

Was most well intentioned.

But I want you to know how deeply it has changed

My feelings back here at the ranch.

I still get up at three in the morning most winter days

To be sure that the water troughs ain’t iced over

And the cows and yearlings have enough fresh hay to make it

Through the raspy days

And when the sky shades into the blue of my dead wife’s eyes

I can still see the peaks of the Cascades some hundred miles or so to the west

Capped with snow and concealing

Old Ben Ingalls lost ledge of gold.

I would lie there whole in the hot July night

Next to my lost wife in the year before my oldest boy was born

Listening to poor dead Duane’s slide guitar

Convinced he was singing of finding the dead man’s gold

And now with your fancy internet and irresistible force for truth

You proved to me that he was singing about the cross roads concealing the dead man’s ghost.

Do live men have ghosts?

I’ve talked to old Ben Ingalls ghost in my dreams

His blue woolen uniform gold oak leaf on his shoulder strap

And he showed me the three small lakes

And the angle of the ledge of solid gold

Wrapped in the alpine firs and western hemlock

In the canyon up in that Cascade valley

More than once as I slept

He tells me I have been chosen to claim the yellow dream of easy living

And spread its goodness around my world.

But sister you know as well as I, having chased dreams of your own

That the cutting and the roping and binding the calf ends the race

And the race is what we live for.

That song gallops around and around in my head

As I load steers to the stockyards

And trot through my chores each day

Some day I’m going to climb that mountain

Old Ben Ingalls by my side

And I’m going to find our ledge of gold

Before Ben and I posse up and we ain’t gonna let the crossroads hide us

We’ll find some other young buck to haunt

But we ain’t going to tell him the real lyrics

To our song.

He can hear what he needs to hear.

Tyson West is a is a traditional western poet whose aesthetic continually shape shifts. He watches the Northwest with veiled and hooded lynx eyes, broods among the conifers and quarrels with Coyote. He has a degree in history, but writes a variety of poetry styles, and has written a series of poems around Spokane Garry who is our local magical Indian. One of Tyson’s Western poems was published in Spoke Magazine called “Floorshow”, which is based on a picture of a 1922 floorshow in the Davenport Hotel which photo you can find on line. He lives in the middle of Eastern Washington, which is definitely cowboy country. There are two Washingtons, Eastern and Western, and they are as different as a Mocah Mint Latte with organic goats milk and black boiled coffee at a chuck wagon fire.

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The Guardian

It was a lonely hilltop
where the prairie grasses played,
tossed by the winds of summer
and barren of any shade.

From that grand promontory
one could see a distant home
rising from the prairie sod
and the land where cattle roam.

To the west the land stretched on…
waves of grass, a moving sea,
splashing on a sandy shore
too distant for man to see.

The river, off to the south,
shrunken from the springtime flood
with waters now running blue,
and no longer filled with mud.

But that view was overcome
by a mound of new-turned soil
and a wee fist of daisies
that marked a poor digger’s toil.

Guarding that lonely hilltop
a small home-made cross now stands,
marking one more sacrifice
to hardship on prairie lands.

The sod home seemed empty then
but the rancher toiled on
glancing very frequently
t’ward the place his love’d gone.

From: Sun, Sand & Soapweed, ©2005

Clark Crouch is a self-proclaimed Poet Lariat and a prize-winning western and cowboy poet, author, lyricist, and performing artist. He admits to a bias toward traditional cowboy poetic forms. The author of eight books poetry, six of which are devoted to western and cowboy verse, he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry and a five-time finalist in the annual Western Music Associations book award competitions. He wrote his first prize-winning poem at age eleven but never got around to writing more until 2001 when he was 73. Shortly thereafter he started writing and performing professionally.

*The Guardian*
/This poem was one of twenty “living documents” selected by a Fifth Grade Teacher in Page, Arizona to help her students understand the Westward Movement in the U.S.  She received a “best classroom practices award” for her innovative approach./

October Issue- Week 1

October 4, 2012

About photo- “In addition to getting up at 2 AM, we have huge ranches in Az and NM. The ranch we were working cows is 206 section ranch. The border splits the ranch in half and has to run different brands. We get up at 2 to feed the cow horses and we are all up, dressed, most of us anyway, saddled and mounted by 4:30 AM. It takes us about 45-one hour to get the herd where we gathered them (10 section trap) and we wait for sun up. At sun rise they want water and we drive them about 10 miles to the corrals and water. Then we sort off the mother cows. We rope and drag the yearling to the fire for shots, ear tags, brands and if it’s a bull calf I cut them. We then let the calves mother up and we push them all back to good pasture, then ride back to headquarters. It is usually a 2Am – 8PM day.”

M. C. Hudson was born in Tombstone, Arizona and has lived and loved the life of a cowboy for most of his life. He is an ex-bull rider, who has lived to tell about his experiences, and has helped train youth to ride bulls. As a pastor of a rural church and setting in SE. AZ Mike has worked many of the larger ranches in Arizona and New Mexico, gathering cows, doctoring, sorting, branding (cutting-seems to be the job for a pastor) and roping. He is also embarking on a journey into writing poetry and prose, and was chosen for the October 2012- week 3.

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Dragging Me Down

Our raft was sinking thirty yards off Wild Horse Island.  That bastard Rollie had been dragging me to the Island for six months, and this is how it ended.  We had busted ass over sixteen square miles nearly every night and everything we had to show for it was sinking.

The shadow of Wild Horse Island loomed over us, even in the dead of night.  She was laughing at our private disaster because she knew we had stolen from her.

“Damnit Warren, help me bail.”  Rollie was trying to scoop water with his hands.

“It’s gone.  We gotta start swimming.  Sun’ll be up in an hour and I ain’t getting caught by Tribal Police.”  Trespassing on Indian land came with stiff retribution, but Rollie didn’t care.  And Rollie did enough not caring for the both of us.  He kept scooping.

“Rollie, it’s not gonna’ work.  The damn thing weighs four hundred pounds.  We can’t swim with that.  Hell, it sank the raft.”  I took him by the shoulders and stared him straight in the eye.  “I’m going.”

I slung my pack and hit the water.  The shock of cold sent my testicles into the furthest recesses of my gut and I struggled for my next breath.  I used it to holler at Rollie to swim before I started myself.  The mainland shore was a quarter mile off and my clothes were already heavy.
“Warren, come back.  We can’t let it go.”  I know Rollie would have gladly sunk along with the cargo.  As it was, he was fighting to stay up, still clinging to the crudely constructed raft.  But it was going, and there would be no stopping it.  Our treasure was just too heavy.

I paddled over to Rollie who had just managed to grab his bow off the raft in its last seconds above water.  He was treading water now, still staring down into the water after his prize.

“Wish we hadn’t killed it,” I said.  “I had more fun chasing the thing every night.  It was huge.”  Now it was dead and headed to a resting spot two hundred feet below the surface, but I didn’t bother saying that.

“It was either me or that ram.  It used to see it in my dreams, Warren.”

“I’m just glad it wasn’t you and the ram.”

I peered down into the depths, wondering if I’d be able to see the one-and-a-quarter curl on its way to the bottom.  But it was four-thirty in the morning and that would have been impossible.  I grabbed his arm and started for shore.

Nate Wilkerson currently  is a resident of Portland, Oregon, has attend school at Marylhurst University, and now works for the YMCA child care division.  I have had poetry published in A Plains Paradox Literary Journal in 2011.

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