Montana, 1879

The axe falls in time with his breathing
The nutcracker bird calls in time with his swinging
The sun draws beads of sweat from his forehead
The Yellowstone River bends around his homestead

Jessie kneads the dough in time with her singing
Daisy-May and dolly are on the front porch playing
The sun casts shadows through the ponderosa pine
The golden eagles soar along the timberline

Split logs lie around his feet ready for stacking
Autumn fogs and winter snows are beckoning
A refreshing breeze arrives with a solitary cloud
The hay is cut and the fields are ploughed

His axe falls on the last of the day’s labouring
Jessie calls from the window to stop him working
Four riders home into view on the road from Melville
The man reaches for his rifle and time stands still

Oh Sweet Grass County, my beloved family
We worship your land and all its bounty
From the mountains high to the pastures low
We live and breathe as the waters flow

 

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these ‘things’

I place these ‘things’ within me
not for any healthy purpose you understand
and mostly unintentionally
but in they go to find a way
to make a home in some dark nook
or cavernous cranny

stay as mini-migraines why not
or boiling lava lakes within my gut
yes it’s up to me to sort them out
to shout them down and diminish
their potential to wreak havoc
but it doesn’t always work that way

as I am sure you are well aware

once, when I was walking along a remote roadside
I glimpsed a wild animal hide behind a rock
it knew that I knew that each of us were waiting
for the other to move first
yet somehow that creature melted away in the heat
and came to rest within me

and further into my journey
I came across the remains of an eagle
its feathers magnificently spread across the tarmac
a discarded headdress from a fallen hero
once galloped off into a desert sunset
brave and fearless

unlike myself you understand

still storing all these ‘things’ after all these years
souvenirs and postcards from the past
red lipstick kisses on green envelopes
portraits of the poet as a young man
miniatures of finely painted thoughts
in foreign climes

there is an end to this tiresome conversation
as the wind blows through open corridors
I take the hand of an imaginary friend
and we walk barefoot across sand dunes
each step is a word left unspoken
each word left unspoken is peace at last

only you

a thread of cloth on a desert-thorn bush
below a steep incline down which the wind whispered

only you
only you
only you can find him

a spot of blood on a yellow grass blade
beside a narrow track of trampled dust that whispered

only you
only you
only you can find him

a print of a foot by a damp silty  stream
beyond a rocky ravine where the water whispered

only you
only you
only you can find him

a call from a crow in the sun blistered sky
above a high lonely cave where the spirits whispered

only you
only you
only you can find him

a hand reaching out to his parched pallid cheek
a finger that runs across his cracked swollen lips

~

you found me then? – yes I found you
but how? – a thread of cloth, a spot of blood
I caught my hand on the desert-thorn – a footprint
by the stream? – and the crow that called to me
the crow? – the spirits
I came here to die – yes I know you did
why did you come? – because you wanted me to
I couldn’t ask you – I know you couldn’t
I thought I could do it on my own – I know
I thought you didn’t love me anymore – I never stopped
will you stay? – until the end
then leave me to the birds? – I will my love
you will? – yes I will.

fever trail

his fever followed you everywhere

hot sweating on your scented trail
along the dried up gulches and riverbeds
between haze stolen mountains and eagle nests
down wild beast trails through river forests

hunting     grasping     future fishing
hurling vapid words into cliffside caverns
watching     waiting     they fall into silence

aborted echoes of long remembered dreams
fractured     splintered     headshot through
like every buffalo slaughtered on every prairie
like every severed horn piled high for the hunter’s glory

the shattered highway cuts through the turgid night
bisected by your starlit brilliance
two-fingered by your opened-leg malevolence
photographed     pornographed     thermographed

always hoping to catch and blind poker you
shackled     bound     all to his famished self
a wild dog gnashing ripping flesh from bone
stalked     snatched     blood-dripped sand

gloating over his prized possession
his hand smothers your gaping mouth
howls vent and scorn over your battered body
dissolving in a muddied pool of stagnated fury

he gasps     chokes back the grief     turns
follows his fevered trail everywhere
sweating your scented temptation

poisoned without you
poisoned with you
poisoned in you
poisoned you

reward

(playing with imagery, mixing up the here and now with the bruised and burnished past, battlefields and seared landscapes, scars and shallow graves – nothing is sacred or lost).