The vet is coming at two

My Dog is dying
Under the crepe myrtle tree
In full blossom & drifting
Down over him & me &
My wife & the vet is coming
At two, he’s 14 & had the full
Dog experience, me rescuing him from
A rancher who got him as a stray
Into his ranch & announced he
Had too many dogs, & his wife
Knowing he would shoot him &
I worked with her & she asking 12 years
Ago, “Would you like a nice dog?”
& I saw him and said, “Hi buddy,”
& he sat down right beside me & took
A pet & he’s been my Buddy ever since
For me & my son & my wife, he’s
Chased cows on my rancher buddy’s 7,000 acre ranch
With Cow-dog English Shepherds in Eastern Oregon,
& had three years of running with Walker Hounds
On Black bear chases in Alaska, with my hunting buddy
Biologist &  once treed, we  then took pictures
& petted up the dogs, we let all the bears go
Once he treed a bear on his own, but he’d come back to the truck
If the Walker hounds had a five mile chase
He in his Airedale/ Rottweiler compact 90 lb frame defended our yard
from a marauding German shepherd, & after the stitch up
I had him neutered, & he was still hard on cats but
He learned to live with the one we had,
Early on I saw that he would point cats
Paw up and tail straight like a bird dog &
Well, I’ve had to pay a number of vet bills to stitch up felines
& just two weeks ago feeble as he is
One wandered into his backyard
& he tried for one last biting of the cat, tipping over the lawn chairs,
Table & umbrella, & barbecue, he always had the seeming happy dog smile
Even now that he can’t move his hind legs & he quivers in pain
& the vet is coming at two, & my dear wife
Has been weeping for three days &
The myrtle blossoms are falling on him
& the vet is coming at two.

Red is Dead

I was his foreman on a large
Tree planting crew in Northern California
In the early 90s a mix of hippies,
& working men, contracted to Big Dog Steve
Who was a mixture of both, &
Who planted with the crew, we were planting a large burn
That had been allegedly accidently started by
Pot growers, in their nightly clandestine
Kitchen duties deep in a National Forest
In 1986 & we had half the contract done, I’d lost 25
Pounds, had a sense of how to get trees
To everyone & do the quality control for
Inspection, I’d planted for six years myself
& it had been going well, we
Called him Red, I think his name was Robert
& he was likeably strange, walked on his hands
In front of the camp fire,
In the evening where we were all spiked out at
Camp & for some reason for a while I thought
He’d been burying trees, & I sought to figure this
Out & found he was completely innocent, which
Would have been stupid since we were being paid
By the acre, & he was getting an hourly wage, however
It was happening sometimes & I’d catch guys stashing trees
& burning weed in slash piles & taking up the line later
After 20 minute breaks, while everyone else slaved
In our reforestation Gulag, but I realized after awhile
Red didn’t ever do that & kept his head down, &
He started hanging out with Stomper, a Eugene Hippie
Who blew weed hard every night, but Red began to get
Weirder, than normal & after the job was over, I accidently ran into a guy
Who was Red’s roommate & he told me Red was schizophrenic, but OK
If he did not go off his medications, & when he did he had
A pension for fire, walking around the house saying, “Its gonna burn,
It’s gonna burn, Its gonna burn,” & Red did have a shave in the pen for starting a fire,
But that was ten years before that, & the meds were supposed to take care of it,
& Red had been on the straight & narrow of getting well, but
Later that month I was told Red was dead,
I’d heard he and Stomper went on a job in western Idaho
& Red who had been off his meds for a month
& blowing a lot of weed with Stomper, had poured gas on himself
& sat himself on fire, then as a burning man,
Jumped into a holding pond meant to provide
Water during Forest fires & Red broke his neck
& drowned as the flames were quenched in the pond
& Stomper came back to their camp from town &
After smelling a lot of gas, & walking around for an hour
He found Red & had to go back into town
& call the State Police who did not exactly figure all this out.

The Chink-oh-pin


It would be before
the gurgle of water
in streams clearing
after rains of after
stillness of the movement
of snowfall where
the chinquapin
& lodgepole take the first
winters weight of whiteness
all standing before moments
pervasive & there
my heart leaps out for You
as a child kicking deep in
bellied womb, waiting as
the Cascades wait for each
winter’s snow which is
cold slow birth of
every mountain spring

My Grandfather’s Farm





He did not homestead
As his grandfather had,
During Bloody Kansas, but
He was born in a sod house,
& his father, an immigrant at nine
Learned carpentry &
Built a wooden house on another farm
Around 1884 & he, a second generation
Norwegian, with an English mother
Who had insisted on Anglicizing the name Nygaard, to Thompson
He, the second son, took to Cowboy as soon as he could,
Worked for a Texas Ranger named Crump,
Went on one cattle drive from Texas to Abilene
& an expedition against small farmers, which were putting
Up barb wire & all this after as a lad, he’d seen prairie chickens
Fly up in such great numbers as to block out the sun
& he’d seen the Dalton Brother’s
Rob a bank —wilding with six
Guns drawn & a getaway, &
He’d tried to fight in the
Spanish war but was sent
Back from Florida when
He was discovered too young, &
After returning, he was breaking
A horse & was thrown
& in the dust & picking himself up
He heard an old timer at the edge of the corral laugh,
“Remember the Mane!”
That year he was thrown from a horse again,
& compound fractured his leg below the knee,
& crawled three miles back to the ranch house
Where they put him in a buck board wagon
& drove him ten miles to a doctor,
& he showed me those scars, & I heard a conversation
He had with an old timer who lived up on the South fork
Of Little Butte Creek in a cabin here in Oregon, & how in 1901
They, unbeknownst to each other,
Had both been at a rodeo at the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma
& where he saw a young Will Rogers, & a
Federal guard had Geronimo in a cage,
& let him out & made the fierce old man shoot a buffalo
Tied to a stake, & they & many of the cowboys thought
That a disgusting spectacle, but they ate of the Buffalo
Two years later, he courted my grandmother, daughter of third generation
German-American family from Ohio,
That had 500 acres of bottom land,
& sons either unwilling, or unable to farm, &
In September of 1903 he was feeding hogs for the old man from a wagon &
His father-in-law to be, was sitting on the fence
Twenty feet from him, when a lightning bolt
Struck the old man, & turned him to charcoal
& knocked my Grandfather out of the wagon
& he & Grandmother married in October
& pretty much the day of the lightning strike they inherited their farm
& he was successful for almost thirty years, most of his children living
& graduating from High School, & stories of family life & scores of farm hands
He employed, all thinking well of him as a fair man,
& neighbors & stock bought & sold, & wheat crops & corn crops
& hogs, & cattle, & early machines of mechanized agriculture,
Like a corn chopper that took his middle finger,
& the time he threw the Klan off his property when they tried to recruit him,
& neighbors, & the time the tornado took off the barn door,
When he was trying to get the horses out,
& broke his back, laying him up for a time
In the hospital, & then Depression came &
He & my Grandmother & my mother, their youngest, had to drive
Away in a buckboard wagon, pulled by a team of horses
From their property and prosperity, this lightening
Came in the form of a squall of bloody Kansas bankers,
After wheat & hog, & corn crops that mortgaged the farm became worthless,
While down in Texas, Lyndon Johnson changed all that, &
Saved Texas farmers from far off Washington & knowing this,
Years later, my Grandfather was happy to vote for LBJ,
While the rest of my family, who though they revered the oil painting
Of the stone farm house they’d grown up in,
Voted Goldwater, complaining that
The government was too large.

Brueghel’s Plowman revisited


Afternoon on Thanksgiving
thirty years ago & we walked up to the cliffs
On Neil Rock, Claire & myself
We’d been living together for
About six months 40 miles away
& had the big meal at my friend
Peter’s & early afternoon began
The walk — I’d lived up there a year,
Two years previous,
& it was about five years before I
Bought my cabin on that mountain &
I was in love w/ Claire & this was before I found
Out she was hooking for the cocaine
She brought home twice a week & well it was
A pleasant chilly walk, the back way
Up through Phil’s place & around the
North side to the cliffs

It was a vision quest thin place, when
Native Takelma ruled the Valley
Complete with a limestone cave
Cave underneath & the blackened
Ceiling etched a good half inch into
The limestone, & there was a place for
A fire & two other rooms in the cave &
Once when I was up there by myself I
Found a smooth red ochre stone the size
Of a half dollar with a clean round hole
That been hidden in a crevice, no way to know
For how long perhaps before Ft. Lane — as there is no way to know
How long until change comes & whether it is good or evil

From the cliffs above you could see
To the North Mt. Theilsen’s pointy peak & Three Sisters
Off in the distance & keep on turning the Cascades to the right
& all of the valley to the West — Mt. McLaughlin &
Brown Mountain & south you can see Pilot Rock &
The tip of Mt. Shasta, the Siskiyou’s off in the distance blue
& in front, down out of the box canyon due east of Ramsey Canyon
The two Table Rocks loom up below you like aircraft carriers at sea
When you see them in the valley fog & level off about fifty feet from the rim when
Medford is socked in every winter & smog warnings come out & some days no sun shines
Because inversion & it’s bluebird clear just above the Valley floor
The Upper Table Rock counting from the Rogue River, & the Lower Table Rock to the right
Because it is down river, & from the cliffs you can see an old airstrip on the top
Of the lower Table Rock & the sheer walls of each are visible & you can see some
Of the volcanic rock of the time, before any counted time — formed this place

But this place is where the Takilma came to pagan worship these two flat rocks,
Below us that day & pray for a good salmon run, & many deer & elk
& for babies to live past three & they made red arrowheads in the lodges down below,
Gambled, smoked from a pipe, leech tannin from gathered acorns & grind them
into unleavened bread, & Neil Rock was a place for a shaman to take young men, & fast them &
Feed them amanitas in potion & invite them to see— while
They mapped with hunger all the places they would hunt
& be able to talk among themselves & never be lost for
Very long because of the long looking —above the sacred rocks,
& the low mountains around Sam’s Creek are off in the distance & now
Divided up ranches, small farms and half acre & a mobile home squirrel ranches that
Divide up Sam’s Valley & south & low from there is Medford, hazy & a grey appearance
& smoke from mills in White City & we’d walked up to take this all in &
On Beagle road directly below & west was the Beagle Sky ranch where for
A fee you could take a six hour class & then jump from a perfectly good airplane
With a parachute down into the valley we were taking in as panorama,
& this began to happen & as generally it did the plane would circle
& a distant form would pop out & a bright yellow, or red
Or white chute would open & from side, to side, slowly float down to the valley,
& I had been used to seeing these parachutes as it was happening

I pointed it out to Claire & a form fell out and the chute opened
& drifted off red, then another & a white chute opened
& descended down much faster than the other
I did not make anything of this & then there was a siren of an ambulance from
Three miles away & I noted this was something connected, we continued our
Hike & tour of the caves; the next day was Sunday & I took the paper late
In the morning & with coffee read of a parachutist killed in Sam’s Valley when
His chute did not open correctly & how he had been the chute packer for the Sky Ranch,
& week or two later I talked to a neighbor that knew someone down on Beagle road
Where the sky divers landed & he said he’d come down a ten yards from a couple
Putting a new composition shingle roof on their mobile home & they heard from the sky:
“Please God! Please God! Please God! Please God!” then heard a thud & they saw him bounce
A bit, & like Brueghel’s damn plowman I did not know, but
I’ve thought of it as a freeze frame & how it played out just like on the cliff
& somehow he should have known to look around & if he did, he would
Look at the just made splash, and being human he’d have probably looked at the contraption
& not connect it with the sky in any manner & noted it only
As the possibility of a large fish or whale, like when I saw the half opened chute,
& his gaze would have gone back to the ship & the mountains in the horizon
& he might have thought of a woman he knew in the city & was seeing &
as I did for years, the furrow to furrow of work, takes plenty of poems away,
until now, but there were children to raise & there were the things I no longer do,
that I did & as years before, we walked off the cliffs that day & I was then the damn plowman
& now have my memory & I can put these fly away wings on any time

& back another decade to be travelling on I-95 to Boston with my English professor in 1973,
Who introduced me to Brueghel’s painting & Dr. Williams, & Bernie’s Peugeot began to
Skid in the snow & went across three lanes of traffic, on two wheels & I looked out
The passenger window while the pavement was inches from
My face & I heard him loudly scream, “Please God!” & we hit a snow bank hard
Below an over pass & as if we were on a just banked billiard ball
We spun back across traffic as cars whizzed by—us now pointed against traffic,
Then pointed with it, & then slid into the median & gasped at being stopped
Pointed in the wrong direction, but off the road & alive
With small damage of some trim to the French car
& I’ve never jumped out of good airplanes, nor bad ones, nor, owned a Peugeot,

Though I’ve been blessed many times; & I’ve cried out to God
& many have been, “Please God!” & I’ve been answered with the blessing of my time,
& am thankful, yet I know as the sky diver fell, he had no notion
Of shamans, or voluptuous girlfriends, or history, or anthropology,
Or Thanksgiving dinner, or jobs, or money, or a new car, or what he did last
Thursday, or Brueghel, or Ovid, or Icarus, or William Carlos Williams,
Or a liberal education in University, he thought no politics & he
Did not have a nanosecond of ponder comparative religion,
The fall was not 20,000 feet, but 2000—no time for a short tight poem either, &
The consequence of his sin was gravity, & by him it was not well considered,
He didn’t think about the separation of Church & State & he knew no contingency
That could have stopped this since on that day he relied on the rote of muscle memory
For his own self-worth; having paid more attention for others than himself, & as this was
This the last time at the packing table—he didn’t think through what he had done,
Jumping on an ambitious whim & it could not be undone & pulling on the tangled ropes & knowing
He hadn’t packed the secondary chute,
& he cried out to God — all-the-way-down.