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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:53 pm    Post subject: from way out west Reply with quote

It's been raining folks, and
Hanque and Sam are out singing.

Joy of Man's Desiring, sung by Sam

(This ole poem has been repeated deleted, I don't know why, but I'll give it another try under a new title. J.S. Bach, ya know.)


I’ve only punched a horse once
and once was enough.
This story ain’t about that.

I throw a saddle on ole Sam
and he gives me a hard look as it’s hot and humid.
I ain’t none too thrilled about it myself,

but there’s work to be done
and I look around and don’t see no volunteers.
As a concession I don’t pull the cinch

too tight, and by way of thanks Sam steps on my foot.
I’m a slow learner and no mistake.
I give him a shove, jerk the cinch tight enough

to make that old buzzard grunt and off we go.
We ain’t lookin’ for no damn bull,
and we ain’t bringin’ in no heifers with calves

hangin’ out waiting for helpin’ hand.
We’re looking for 053 and that spells trouble.
O53 looks like any ole black angus cow

smells like any ole black angus cow,
eats the same grass, drinks the same water,
but that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends.

She ain’t like other black angus cows
on account of she’s mean and she holds her head high,
and I reckon you’d say she’s in need of an attitude adjustment.

She also likes to walk through, over, and under fences.
Our work detail is simple: find her.
That’s all, find her, make sure she ain’t dead, and come home.

It don’t seem like much. If we do that
without having her go through more fences,
and don’t do us no damage, then I’ll say we’ve done good.

This ain’t our first attempt, you might say it’s a work in progress,
the goal bein’ to get her back with the herd
where she belongs. Truth is she belongs down there

in the seven circle with the other miscreants.
This is all by the way, and it ain’t gainin’ us any ground.
Sam knows what’s up, and between that

and the heat he’s got a hump in his back
and actin’ like one a those ole boys that’s had a drink or two
and gets to feelin’ brave, only they ain’t brave, just drunk.

Sam ain’t drunk, he’s just a little put out, and goes to crow hoppin’,
which ain’t like Sam,
and I say, “you got the buck, I got the spurs, let’s see who wins.”

He’d win, and he knows it, but he was just horsin’ around.
We get on down the road,
and I reckon this is a boring story, I’ll say right here and now,

there ain’t no grand adventure waitin’ around the bend,
it’s just me and ole Sam doin’ what we do.
On top a that I ain’t got the patience to relate every creek

we cross and hill we climb, and I reckon that sounds cold,
and I don’t mean to be, and you may not know it
but I’m doin’ you a favor. There ain’t much excitement

in crossin’ creeks and climbin’ hills, though
havin’ said that—you never know til it's done.
We’re ridin’ and it’s hot and it ain’t too bad,

but I’ll say this, every damn face fly, horn fly, deer fly,
and horse fly within seven counties is keepin’ us company
and we ain’t ridin’ so much as swattin’,

and it makes Sam jumpy, and he’s worked up a lather
before we’ve even cleared the timber.
Once we do clear the timber the flies ease up

which is a relief, not to say they’re altogether gone.
It ain’t a bad day, just hot and humid, which I already said.
We ride through the first bottom land, cross a creek,

climb a few hills, which is the sort of thing
I said I wasn’t gonna talk about,
and after a while I got a feelin’ we’re honin’ in on the ole girl.

The fact is we knew where she was last week,
but that don’t signify today. Where she was and where she is
are two different things. We know where she ain’t,

so we don’t go there, and we don’t know where she is,
so that’s where we go. Which is pretty much the plan
that led ole Ahab to his watery tomb

and I he expect he’d a been better off not goin’ there,
only I reckon that was his destiny and not his choice.
Me and Sam ain’t obsessed with this ole cow,

we just wanta find her. I reckon our destinies
don't hang in the balance.
My best guess is she’s standin’ in a creek, in the shade,

coolin’ her heels, swattin’ flies with her tail,
musin’ on the best way to kill a cowboy
should one happen along.

I expect she’s the meanest cow west of the Mississippi.
I can’t speak for what lays on the east.
Funny thing about cows is that they don’t like bein’ alone,

bein’ herd animals and all, but this ole girl
musta been born with a caul or some damn thing
‘cause she likes her own company, which ain’t right for a cow,

not altogether sure it’s right for any livin’ bein’.
She don’t graze with the other cows,
whether they’ve ostracized her or she them, I don’t know.

But we need to find her, and I have a pretty good idea
she’s down there by the old house place,
you know the one: Darly Boy’s worst nightmare,

though that’s just speculation. We’ll get there
and the answer will sort itself out.
That’s the way of it.

I got an Angel’s song runnin’ through my head,
been hearin’ it all day,
been hearin’ it for weeks. Pretty song. Sweet Angel.

I get to ponderin’ on why an ole cow like 053 turns rank,
and after runnin’ through a few
of the standard psychological profiles

conclude that it comes down to one simple fact:
she was born mean.
Oh, I know, the other girls probably

teased her at an impressionable age,
and her mama probably had three tits instead of four,
and no doubt she was weaned too young, and the whole nine yards.

But it don’t add up.
Some cows are just born mean, and I ain’t blamin’ her
for what nature wrought, but I believe that’s the long and short of it.

I’m stickin’ with my theory til proven otherwise.
She’s just plain mean.
I’ve known some women that run that way too.

She does raise a good calf and that ain’t coincidence.
A good mama’s a thin mama in the world of cows,
it ain’t necessarily so in the world of folk.

A good mama lets the calf suck her down,
and no amount of grass is gonna keep her fat
when that little calf gets up to five or six hundred pounds

and takes a pull.
And a good mama watches over her calf,
and fends off the coyotes, and sleeps with one eye open.

A good mama don’t tolerate cowboys herdin’ them into pens,
even if it is for their own good, they have no concept
of vaccinations and fly tags and wormer.

They just don’t like it. It riles ‘em and it sets ‘em on edge
and maybe ole 053’s been run through the chute
one too many times—

but I already said she was mean from day one
so there goes that theory.
Dammit, I knew this would happen.

I’d get to thinkin’ on this
on see it a whole new way. Ain’t we all born innocent?
Ain’t we all born good? Ain’t cows?

I reckon I ain’t gonna sort it out, so on we ride.
I know this,
when we find her, if we find her, hot as it is,

we ain't’ gonna move her, we ain’t even gonna try.
I just wanna see her,
make sure her eyes are clear, her feet ain’t sore,

and she ain’t slipped her calf, which has an ironical aspect to it,
on account of if she has,
then I can sell the ole rip with a clear conscience.

But I bet she ain’t slipped it
on account of the mean ones never do.
They just keep shellin’ ‘em out. God bless ‘em.

Me and ole Sam ride along,
and I get to daydreamin’ on Angels in far away places,
and I get to hummin’ that song.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I can hum.
I get to hummin’ and Sam kinda picks up the harmony,
and his head’s kinda bobbin’ in time to the music

and I imagine we’re a sight, but there ain’t no one around
and I ain’t overly concerned about my image,
what’s done is done, and I’m a hummin’,

and Sam’s croonin’ kinda low in his bass-baritone,
and I say,
“just exactly what are the words to that tune, ole pard? ”

Sam sighs like we been through this before.
I say, “I ain’t askin’ you to sing it,
just tell me the damn words and I’ll sing it.”

At that ole Sam raises his eyes heavenward and says,
“I’ll tell you the damn words if you promise NOT to sing it.”
'Fair enough, ' I say.

I thought he knew the words all along.
Sometimes you gotta play along, he ain’t no Einstein.
We ride kinda quiet, and I’m pullin’ heads offa horseflies

and I can tell he’s tryin’ to come up with the words,
only they don’t wanta come, and I ain’t in no rush.
His mind works slow, but it works steady

and before we’ve crossed another creek it starts to come:
“Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft, ”

and that don’t sound quite right, and I say,
“not in the original German you ole dumb cluck, ”
and he says, “ excuse me for livin’, ”

but he don’t hold a grudge and here it comes, right:
“Jesu, joy of man's desiring,
Holy Wisdom, Love most bright; ”

and I say, “much obliged, ” but he’s on a roll now:
“Drawn by Thee, our souls, aspiring,
Soar to uncreated light.”

I’m hummin’ tryin’ to get it right and swattin’ flies,
and he ain’t got a bad voice, not exactly George Strait,
but it ain’t like mine which makes children cry,

and pretty soon we’re soundin’ like the Dresden philharmonic,
only less so, and he’s picked up the pace,
on account of that particular piece of music makes gray skies clear,

not that the skies turned gray,
in fact it’s grown from hot to miserable,
but he’s workin’ his way up to the good bits:

“Word of God, our flesh that fashion'd,
With the fire of life impassion'd, ”
damn horseflies

“Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying, round Thy throne.”
Sweet Angel.

I suspect we got where were were goin’
on account of there she is, exactly where I thought she be
which makes me the Einstein I reckon.

Or Ahab.
She’s standin’ in the creek, in the shade,
half predictable, all by her little lonesome, and you can be sure

she sees us comin’, and up comes her head, and she commences
to squintin’ her eyes like some sort of bovine version
of Clint Eastwood on a bad day,

only cows don’t literally squint unless they got pinkeye,
in which case they do, and ole Sam drops an octave:
“Through the way where hope is guiding,

Hark, what peaceful music rings! ”
And I say, “will you kindly hush for just a goddamn minute,
I’d rather not spook her if you don’t mind, ”

and he hushes, but he also runs me under
a low hangin’ limb just for spite,
and we ride up on the ole rip, but not too close,

close enough where we can see her, and I say, “git up girl, ”
just to get her outta the creek so I can see her feet,
and she obliges, sweet thing that she is,

and we kind of ease ‘round her, and she looks fine,
which is a relief, and I say to her,
“ you know, ole girl, life ain’t as hard as you’re makin’ it out to be, ”

but she ain’t listenin’, just shakes her head
and takes a step towards us,
and Sam can’t help but step back

on account of he’s been hit by the likes of her more than once
and he’s gained a healthy respect for livestock,
and I don’t mind him steppin’ back

on account of I’ve been hit more than once myself.
though steppin’ back is a bad habit,
and I say to her, “there’s no call for that, ya’ole hussy.”

There’s no talkin’ to her.
We’ve seen what we’ve come to see.
It ain’t much of a story, and I apologize, but I gave fair warning.

Maybe next time you’ll believe me
Since there ain’t no point in imposin’ yourself where you ain’t wanted,
me and ole Sam ride on down the creek—

“and miles to go before I sleep...” ole Bob Frost said.
He even said it twice,
so I reckon he must’ve had some saddle time of his own.

Ole Sam picks it up where he left off:
“Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.”

and I get to thinkin’ a cool drink a water
wouldn’t taste half bad about now,
and ole Sam, he can jerk the reins outta my hands

any time he wants and get a drink outta the creek,
but I’m more particular about where I pick up my giardia.
We ride on down half a mile

to the old spring house where Mr. P. Wiedman
carved his name in sandstone in 1908
and set that stone for a foundation

and its stood ever since, though it’s gettin’ hard to read.
There runs a clear, cold spring, runs year round,
drought or no drought, and on top a that

grows a fine crop a watercress.
That’s where we go, and when we get there
I tie ole Sam up to a tree on account of horses and springs don’t mix,

if you take my meanin’, and I cup my hands
and drink that fine water,
and it just about makes me cry it tastes so sweet and cool.

Sam’s workin’ up to the last lines:
“Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.”

If life ain’t sweet then I don’t know what is.
“Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.”

I believe I hear an Angel sing,
but it’s just ole Sam.

Hanque O . . .
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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and to follow the splendid Hanque O, who's still writing his saga of life in rancher country, a seasonal one :

Grandpa Vogt’s—1959

The food is on the table. Turkey tanned
to a cowboy boot luster, potatoes mashed
and mounded in a bowl whose lip is lined
with blue flowers linked by grey vines faded
from washing. Everyone’s heads have turned
to elongate the table’s view—a last supper twisted
toward a horizon where the Christmas tree, crowned
by a window, sets into itself half inclined.
Each belly cries. Each pair of eyes admonished
by Aunt Photographer. Look up. You’re wined
and dined for the older folks who’ve pined
to see your faces, your lives, lightly framed
in this moment’s flash. Parents are moved,
press their children’s heads up from the table,
hide their hunger by rubbing lightly wrinkled
hands atop their laps. They’ll hold the image
as long as need be, seconds away from grace.


Benjamin Vogt
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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another seasonal one :

At the Choral Concert

The high school kids are so beautiful
in their lavender blouses and crisp white shirts.

They open their mouths to sing with that
far-off stare they had looking out from the crib.

Their voices lift up from the marble bed
of the high altar to the blue endless ceiling

of heaven as depicted in the cloudy dome—
and we—as the parents—crane our necks

to see our children and what is above us—
and ahead of us—until the end when we

are invited up to sing with them—sopranos
and altos—tenors and basses—to sing the great

Hallelujah Chorus—and I’m standing with the other
stunned and gray fathers—holding our sheet music—

searching for our parts—and we realize—
our voices are surprisingly rich—experienced—

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth—
and how do we all know to come in

at exactly the right moment?—Forever and ever—
and how can it not seem that we shall reign

forever and ever—in one voice with our beautiful
children—looking out into all those lights.


Tim Nolan
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