December- Week 4

January 2, 2013

Scents of Christmas

Remembering briefly the scents which pervaded the Christmas Season so many years ago in our one-room sod home back in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

The scents of Christmas filled the air…
the smell of pumpkin pie,
a turkey roasting on the hearth…
with mama standing by.

‘Twas a Christmas to remember,
and enjoy once again
the many scents of Christmas past,
remem’bring way back then!


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.

He was inspired by three individuals: Will Rogers who was his hero during the early 1930s; Charles Badger Clark, the classic cowboy poet, with whom he was acquainted in the early 1940s; and Sherman Alexie, a Native American poet, novelist, screen-writer and performer who, in 2001, encouraged him to write his western tales in poetic form.

His poem ‘The Guardian’ was published in CPP’s October 2012 Issue- Week 2

*******

 TWO SHOTS—MAYBE

It was late Fall when Pete and I found five dead Herefords on the bank of the Ranch’s main irrigation ditch. They were gutted.

I remarked to Pete, “There’s only one animal, besides man, that kills for pleasure—the Grizzly bear. “We’ll shoot him tonight.”

We built a shelter, downwind, with a good view of the bear’s most likely path to his victims. I had borrowed a Steyr Mannlicher eqipped with a night sight and Pete, as back up shooter, had his Dad’s thirty-aught-six.

It was not a long wait. Pete spotted him—about 200 yards out—cantering towards us. My first shot was in his gut. He let out a high pitched grunt and in spite of his condition he closed on us fast. He was less than thirty yards away. On the second shot I remembered my grandfather’s dictum—lie still, bring the animal into the cross hairs, hold your breath and squeeze the trigger.

It was a perfect shot through the heart. The Grizz rose up on his hind legs, barked a piercing death rattle and keeled over. He measured out at over 10 feet and weighed we estimated, about1,000 lbs.

After he was dressed out, I visited the Forest Service to fill out a report.

Chief Ranger Bill Burns admonished, “Mike, you’re supposed to obtain permission before you kill an endangered species.”

“Bill, I know, but he’s made endangered species already of five of our cattle.” I did not say what I was thinking: we Wyoming ranchers shoot first and talk about it later. “Here are your bear steaks. I’m returning the Grizz slightly modified into Forest Service custody.”

Bill shook his head and smiled, “You do pretty good dealing with us Smokeys.”

We named the bearskin Jerome and he was placed before the fireplace. For Mary and me the pleasure of his company endured for years.

I reckon that Jerome’s second life was warmer and more stimulating than his first.

Michael J. Keyser in his formative years spent summers and other free time at the family ranch, the Diamond k located in southeastern Idaho.  He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English.  While there, he won the John B. Wanamaker Prize for Excellence in English Composition.

Mr. Keyser served as the President of the American Cancer Society, Cuyahoga County Unit.  He was also a Park Commissioner in Hudson, Ohio.  For several years he served on the Board of the Summit-Portage County Health Systems Agency.

Mr. Keyser has published four works of fiction.  His hobbies are writing, walking and woodworking.  Mr. Keyser is very active in his church with outreach ministries serving senior health facilities.

December- Week 2

December 10, 2012

Call The Fire Joe

Cookie, I know your dark drinkin’ secrets
But you got no notion of mine
So we can talk around this dying campfire
While the moon limps down like a three legged coyote.
I don’t care if some fruity song writer
From New York City claims out here we call the rain Tess, the fire Joe and the wind Maria,
The embers of this fire is burning out nameless
While we hang this last bottle of whiskey
And rehearse our eulogies for its funeral.
Our campfire don’t need no name
Not like our buddies
We drove with on yesterday’s trails
And who are the dust we choke on today.
Cookie, you got even more grey whiskers and fewer teeth than I do
These young bucks snoring away in their bedrolls
Couldn’t handle the whiskey or the truth under this clear black sky
Nor are they even going to appreciate that some of the stars is missing
Since they can’t see yesterday’s sky.
That Jimson boy rides frisky and free reminds me
Of my pardner Joe just after the war
Same strawberry blond hair and easy laugh
We shared many a bottle and many a hard dirty ride
And many a lady at Miss Lucy’s sporting house
But we could only share feelings up to that line
That a real man draws
For fear he will be less of a man.
There was them two ladies
Miss Susan and Miss Elspeth
That Joe and I would pass back and forth
Neither was any great looker
Not like some other younger slim fillies Miss Lucy kept in her stable
I’d go upstairs with Miss Susan and Joe with Miss Elspeth and next payday we would trade across
Older and a bit stockier
They still looked perfect after the whiskey started playing the piano.
They conversed about more than the coins
And the arrival of the next stagecoach
They could see the magenta in the sunset and puce in the cactus blossom
If we weren’t cowboys and needin’ to drive the herds up this Goodnight Loving trail
We might have ridden with them on a good night lovein’ trail of our own
A few cows and an couple quarter sections
Miss Susan could almost see the lace of the sins in my soul
And loved me anyhow
Cotton Eyed Joe
Where did you come from?
Where did you go?
I know where my Joe rode off to
We buried him in Wyoming
Too far from a town to carry his body
I’ve always wondered if I knew then
What I learned in all those starry nights
Silent except for the dust and the voices of the cattle
That there ain’t no great eye of God watching us
Or even if he was
Would even care how close Joe and I could have gotten.
Fearing mostly the scorn of the other young men who was thinking they was going to live forever
And the whuppings from our daddy’s
We high tailed it from any feeling that a silk dress is something purdy
Not just the body of the lady that’s wearing it
After all these years of hard saddles and even harder women
I just wonder if there was some soft place we was missing
Where we might want to bed down for a while
Some place near cool water
Before I sleep with Joe under this hard prairie soil.

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.

December- Week 1

December 4, 2012

Wild Onion

John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He’s had a byline (for brief, humorous items) in over one-hundred different newspapers and magazines. Once upon a time he had light verse published in Grit, Hoofs and Horns, Light, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. His cartoons have appeared in Bowhunter and Farm Antiques News (no longer published).

*******

Crossing The Bar

Walt Blake’s foreman Bill Kelly advised Jake McCarthy that Walt wanted to see him.

Jake inquired, “How’s he doing?”

“Not well. Molly’s doing a great job of nursing, but it’s a race against cancer and it is winning.”

“Thanks, Bill.”

Jake drove his F 350 fast down US 50 to the Blake Ranch (the Lazy B). Molly greeted him warmly and brought him in to see Walt.

He barely sat up in his rocker, “Amigo, how goes it?”

“It’s fine with me Walt, but how about you?”

As customary Walt was to the point, “I’m dying Jake!”

Jake reacted naturally, “Oh, I’m so sorry Walt.”

“Don’t be. We owe God a death and mine is coming up.”

Jake shook his head—already incredulous that this fine man would soon be gone. No more hunting, no more fishing, no more wise counsel and no more Jack Daniels on Walt’s back porch. It was time to shrug off his morbid mood—try to cheer Walt up.

Jake grinned, “Walt I’m missing you already. Will you send me a letter about what it’s like on the other side of the bar?”

Walt laughed with some difficulty, “Same old Jake. Sure young amigo, the letter will come by turtle doves, or still smoking.”

“Well my friend, the Almighty is getting a damn fine man.”

“Thanks Jake for the compliment. I hope the Almighty will be forgiving.”

Molly was listening as Walt declared, “I know that I’m hard to replace, but I’m sure she can find a young stud.”

Molly remarked with a grin, “He’s out in the barn now dear.”

Walt declared, “You see why I’m better off on the other side
Let’s seal our business deal with a bit of Mr. Jack. You too Moll.”

Molly protested, “It’ll kill you sweetheart.”

Walt riposted, “Better now with friends than tomorrow alone.”

They all had two shots—neat.

Walt Blake died ten days later.

Michael J. Keyser in his formative years spent summers and other free time at the family ranch, the Diamond k located in southeastern Idaho.  He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English.  While there, he won the John B. Wanamaker Prize for Excellence in English Composition.

Mr. Keyser served as the President of the American Cancer Society, Cuyahoga County Unit.  He was also a Park Commissioner in Hudson, Ohio.  For several years he served on the Board of the Summit-Portage County Health Systems Agency.

Mr. Keyser has published four works of fiction.  His hobbies are writing, walking and woodworking.  Mr. Keyser is very active in his church with outreach ministries serving senior health facilities.

“Crossin the Bar (primarily a 19th century phrase) in the Tennyson poem (last stanza) means dying.  To navigate over the bar, which could be sand, rock, etc.,  requires a pilot and good tidal conditions. Spiritually dead and once over the bar, he hopes he’ll meet his Pilot (God) face to face.”

In Wait by Rodney Nelson

November 8, 2012

This review is long overdue, and I apologize for not getting it out sooner- I also hope it will lead you to read this wonderful book of poetry. because Rodney Nelson is a wonderful poet who deserves attention. He is a contemporary western poet who takes you to his land, and the words set you straight.

We were fortunate to get a copy of his  METACOWBOY for a review months ago, and were quite pleased adding this wordsmith to our journal list of favorites. Rodney’s new book, In Wait (Night Bomb Press, Portland, Oregon) was not a disappointment.

In my own journey with loss (daughter and parents) over a five year span, very close relations tied to time and place, the emotion drove me down different roads, and I could not write without absolute sadness; Rodney takes you there in a way where loss runs deep, and allows you to sigh, yet take in all its beauty before you look away or move on to the next poem. I only say this because the ‘Authors Note’ made me hesitate my reading.

Nelson possesses a skill that, despite the surroundings and subject matter presented, he makes it never seem like writing is a chore. His beat speaks with a light-hearted but yet descriptive approach, his stops and starts help one smell the roses, a kind of cool touch that makes In Wait a powerful and engrossing read; it is as brilliant as it is sad. Full of his ever matured consciousness as read in METACOWBOY, not between the line clues as you find in mainstream poetry books. This book does celebrate life, and I found myself reading it three times, in a row.

If you have a list as most poets I know do, add this one. And add it to the to for upcoming holiday gifts!

In Wait by Rodney Nelson @ Amazon

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.

********

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.

*******

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.

*******

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.

*******

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.

*******

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./

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