Monday, December 31, 2007


In Celtic mythology, Brighid was the goddess of smithcraft, healing, poetry, and knowledge. Her festival, attended only by women, was celebrated at calving time. 

Listen to the winds of Spring in Wyomin'
Chinookin' through wet, slow-falling snow.
It wanders, and whispers like sighing women
With secrets to tell of the things they know--
When the calves start comin'.

In the long, dark nights just sit and listen
To the old, old tales that a woman tells
When no cow is in labor, no tail is switchin'.
The best songs come in the calvin' lulls,
When the men are sleepin'.

There flows in our veins the fightin' strains
Of ancient Celtic cattle people,
So here in the West on good grass plains
The souls of the old ones chose to settle,
And claim these prized terrains.

Yet still that old Celt blood flows free
And the timeless tales are sung
Of Patrick, and Finn, and the goddess Brig--
Brighid that gracious, warrior one
With the Earth at her knee.

Spear in her hand, crowned as a judge,
Surrounded by herds and poetry,
Goddess of smithy, healing, and knowledge
Three sisters form one trinity--
Become a mystic bridge.

Born neither in, nor out, of a house in the dawn,
Raised on the milk of a red-eared cow,
She speaks to us and her flame burns on
In our minds, our hearts, and our wisdom, now,
Though her virgins are gone.

Our mothers still tend, on calvin' nights
In early Spring, to tell their girls
The lore of birth--the rituals and rights
Of women--and how life hurls
Bliss and pain, joy and frights.

Loving and strong women stand in her shadow
Fierce Brighids in these lonesome hills--
Women of learning tend their cattle,
Shoe their horses, pound their anvils,
And doctor from saddles.

So here in Wyoming her fires are burnin'
Brighid, great goddess, she still lives on
Submerged in the secretive womanly learnin'
Now, as then, when the men are gone
And the calves are comin'.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


A hundred thousand hungry wolves eating cows in Canada
Another several grand in Minnesota
No body knows how many in Montana
Which seems to us a fairly decent quota
To eat our cows and deer and elk

Yet the “Public’s” waving studies that have absolutely shown
That without a “breeding population” to eat our cows and deer and elk
They’re going to die completely out

We don’t buy the theory, since common sense would show
That money spent on wolves would better off be spent on
Species facing imminent extinction maybe hungry single mothers, or the homeless...or so many needy others.
San Francisco Poetry Slam

All I ever knew of San Francisco was that my
Montana cowboss grandpa
used to have his shirts tailor-made—
pearl snaps, fit and trim and neat
by a China man named Sing Kee,
and that the Cow Palace was one hell of a rodeo.

Now, I know how town dogs howl
when their coyote blood runs too wild,
know what the city night looks like
from the low, smooth windows
of a too-long, black, cool limo.
I have viewed those blond ladies
chained to neon doorways
flashing “nude” “nude” “nude.”
And I have seen gay men ride their lovers
piggyback on street corners at 2 a.m.
Phallic fireman monuments, golden gates,
inhaled mariachi, midget trumpets,
Cuban tamales, seaside oysters,
a bit of whiskey mixed in with
too many, too-straight streets,
and reveled in the gentling
of a true friend.

Bold poetry,
brash, true, uncompromising pure
voiced in the body of a black woman,
in the song of her poetic man,
in the language of a beauty
cloaked in Quasimodo/Cinderella rags,
and the insightful conversations
of her inauspicious companion.

Grabass poetry so good that even I
would hang by my chin from a half-open
big town Laundromat windowpane
to hear that which would
blow through my brain,
wash down the traffic
inside my psyche
and stay.
After the Big Circle

That was
some big and open,
outside circle
that we rode.

Threw to the center
miles and miles
of lovely scenes,
rich, exotic cuisines.
Cuban coffees
strong and hot
in baby shot glasses.
Clear, big-eyed caresses,
plump moon nights
ripe for kisses.

Drifted easy
with the drive,
fearless and free,
sometimes beside, sometimes
behind, sometimes ahead,
scouted trails
we maybe someday
want to ride.

Gathered dreams to lean to,
lives to die for, and
joys thick and light enough
to drink in gulps
like eating oysters…

Or, like making love that
flows in circles flying too
far, too high, to even try to
find some silly
Turkey Malarkey

With alacrity,
and regularity…
the turkeys come,
capitalists of a sort,
frumping into the corral,
a non-cooperative consortium
in conversation

Dirt scratchers,
shit pickers,
left over lingerers...

“oats,” he says, “oats”…
“No, grubs,” she says, “grubs.”
“No” “no”
“Yes” “yes”
flutter flap
(right on the noggin)

“back at you…knucklehead,
and raise you a
rake with the old spur.”

“What’s that?”
flutter flap flap

Roam in circles
stirring up dust…
In the middle, is that
pompous display…lust?

Reminds me of
floor debate,
and interminable


joint committee meetings.
A Good Marriage

Blessed are we.
So easy it seems sinful.

after a complete
and abject absence of civility,
and a sorry share of unsuccessful
love affairs,

We cling to the calm center,
stroke the soft,
unbruised, flesh
of pure, abiding,

(or, In Wales She Discovers Her Gene Pool)

As a kid the standard answer to questions regarding ancestral origins was “mostly Irish.”
This was somewhat of an over-generalization, everybody having been
American for so long nobody remembers or bothers about where
we came from.

Complicated truth includes Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh
and whatever other ugly things Aunt Alice discovered
that made her give up her passion for genealogy
with such sudden finality.
We figure if it wasn’t horse thieves or whores
it might have been a black man, a Shoshone grandma
or a señiorita in the closet—and smile at her fussiness.
There was in fact one set
that came straight from

So, in the big picture, “mostly Irish,” is as good
an answer as any.

But then, tramping through a mall in Swansea
every third person looks suspiciously familiar.
Physical characteristics start taking on an eerie significance.

That evening after poetry, I stare into the eyes of a personal duplicate
surrounded by three unrelated companions who could easily pass for my sisters,
and visit with a young man who looks so much like my Father at twenty,
I want to cry.

The next morning I make a pilgrimage over the tidal flats to the very
end of Worms Head,
sit on the point facing home, let the wind blow me clean,
and let my soul catch up…
there together
my soul and I
we plant our stakes.

One here
where psychic certainty says these—these are the people
I come from

And one there
where we are and will be
mostly American.
Systems and Signs

At twilight
approach a pinion juniper

down wind

a lift of the reins

be quiet…no talking
to your chestnut accomplice.

in a late summer
palomino hollow
watch a blood roan stud
stalk through his charges,
intimidating adolescents,
reassuring mothers,
(who ignore him completely,)
asserting his authority
while gaily colored colts
squealing and bucking,
exhibiting their ignorance.

Beneath an iridescent sunset
they flow



through dapple tones of
tobiano sorrel, soft bay, flick of
flaxen flash of strip, snip, and stocking
as he comes walking
of all he surveys
through the grullo dusk,

just as a coyote cries
to long desert shadows

and chirping chicadas.

The old mare
takes charge,
knickers and scolds her foal to her flank,
nips her sister,
and leads the way

to water.

He circles and worries behind them.

you think

of systems…and signs,

think of your warrior sons,
your daughters…grown,
and going now so far
from your protective eyes,

consider the transitions of peace,
and the subtleties of power,

watch the dark swell out of the grass,
night rise to meet an appaloosa blanket
of sky
shoving aside the last voluptuous
purple sighs of a dying


Do not allow the fading, strident harangue
of a blood roan stud
follow you now.

Slough your concern,
settle and turn

to your own circle

Sister Song

I lay sleepless,
snug in bed,
steeling psyche
against lonesome
this first night
of your long

A single coyote,
high and whining,
her voice close,
sings one haunting

She and I,
we cloak selves
in primitive defense.
Lift full throat laments,
then hunker down,
face the wind,
so chill,
so cold,
so lone,

too wild to cry.
Hard Lessons of Adolescence

grudgingly loosens her grip,
lets fly
the mud and the floods,
one big whoosh…

Strands a
one-antlered two year old
mule deer buck,
lop-sidedly dejected,
too humiliated,
too depressed by his
half assed shedding
to know that
this, too…will pass.

You can tell
he feels more out of place
than a street smart London punk
in a psychedelic mohawk,
complete with eyebrow rings and
tattoo neck snake
at the local
Bitter Creek cowboy brawl and dance
on Saturday night.

Little one,
he looks so bedraggled
you want to whisper in his ear,
“don’t worry
you don’t know it yet,
but this will be your year.”

Wait until those
new horns come in
strong and wide and handsome.
Those elusive does will
switch their tails,
flop big ears
and blink… then.

It is not so long,
old Indians know
deer mate on the first full moon
after the brush turns blue.

Be patient
Little One,
it will be here before
you know it.
How Can I Explain…

to some idealistic
that I understand
and empathize
with views of non-violence
and peace,

don’t trust any government
to lose my firearm,

draw my deities
from natural orders
where human beings
are insignificant pimples
in circles of predator
and prey,

know my place in the food chain.

Whether worms or cougars
get me first
depends on time and chance.

Don’t like to kill,
know how to butcher,
how to hunt,
think flesh is good,
and pure and food
for souls
and kids.

And, how can I possibly explain
that racing horseback,
loose and wild through
treacherous enchanting terrain,
sailing loops from
rope swung, weary shoulders
to catch wily mustang mares
is the most exciting,
and addicting occupation
known to
Things We Told Our Kids at the Dawn of a New Millenium

Honesty is the most important thing—
if you can preserve your integrity
you will be able to withstand the most
severe challenges that Life may bring your way.

In our opinion, the virtue that is
right next to truthfulness
in every aspect of your life,
is Kindness.

Common courtesy and thoughtful
consideration of those around you
make for a pleasant way of being, and make you a
joy to be around, every single day—
which means you’ll always be surrounded by
loving family and friends, and you’ll
never be lonely for long.

Nothing ventured is nothing gained.
Don’t be afraid to take a little risk, but make sure
that when you do, you understand
the consequences if the worst happens.
If you can live with the
worst that could possibly happen—then go for it!
Remember your Great-great Aunts,
Marge and Alice Greenough would never have
become Champion Saddle Bronc riders,
if they would have been afraid to break with tradition and risk it all.
If they hadn’t taken
that risk
they would have waited tables
their whole life,
never seen the World,
never Won
the World.

The only things
necessary for a decent life are
food and a warm place to lie down.
Beyond that, everything else is a luxury to be appreciated—
don’t let the pursuit for more and more stuff take
control of your life, and
never let it get in the way of your most
important relationships.

Enjoy your work, and when you work, work hard.

Be conscientious.

Don’t forget to Play.

Don’t be afraid to fail.
Remember that this family has a
long-standing tradition of
achieving more as the result of failure
than they ever imagined.
John McQueary arrived in Virginia in
chains in 1747, was sold on the block
into seven years of indentured servitude.
He brought the minimum bid.
But, when his time was served,
he married the farmer’s daughter and
inherited half of the farm, and
began the family that would be our forebears.
Even though he lost the Battle of Culloden, and his
in the end, the British Crown made it
possible for him to acquire in America
everything he had desired in his
native Scotland—Land, Family, and a Future.

Take care of those around you, and you take care of yourself.

Stay in touch.
Your oldest friends and your
will be the most important to you as you grow older.
Remember the power of


And never forget how much we love You.
Go To Bucking

Folks will sometimes try
to stack on snipey talk,
and it seems that some would like
to saddle me with guilt.

But I just will not stand,
I refuse to fence my life
by somebody else’s rules.

They are never gonna change me,
I’m just not the kind who would,
I’ll bog my head and go to bucking,
and I’ll damn sure never quit.

So, if you think I need reforming,
just waltz on by, because I’m hopeless.
You will never throw the hitch
before I pitch you straight to hell…

I won’t watch you go,
and I won’t look back.

That is that.
Open Letter

To those of you who have no true god, but money;
or to those of you who were raised like that, but are now
dimly becoming aware of some deep and integral
part of “being” that teases your spiritual
awareness on some wilderness
with forty of your closest
friends in some crowded National Park…

Let me assure you:

That is no wilderness.
That is human herd behavior
transplanted outdoors. And, in spite of
the fact that you trip over each other
trampling the flowers in what was
some of the neatest open country around…

There is still plenty of open space
in good places,
and in good hands,
that is healthy, sustainable,
and productive.

We like it that way.

It should not threaten you that it exists.
You do not need to control it,
confine it,
fence it up,
or regulate it
to make sure it stays…

just leave it to hell alone.

Know that there are those of us
who would sell our souls
before we destroyed, or even
harmed the land—the creatures,
the grass,
the trees,
the sky,
the air…
which to us is more precious than anything
you can possibly…(this is no cliché)…ever
conceive of.

It is our blood and spirit and wealth.

Which is why we do not give a
damn for money,
except it sometimes lets us stay—and why
we do not live in herds, and why we fear no predators
except bankers
and slick city lawyers.

So, next time you feel inclined to
donate your resources to some hot-shot outfit
that wants to “preserve the West” by taking it away,
and shutting it off from those
who live and breath
with the same pores as the grass beneath their feet…

Go sell off your Exxon stock, your industro-techno dividends, shut down those earth-belching, planet-mangling, ozone-vomit livelihoods that keep you outfitted in the latest, high-fashion outdoor wear on your wilderness adventures…

And lay your head down every evening, resting easy, knowing that you do
the Earth
a far kinder deed.

from the Ranch.

she walked out the door of where she lives
and she walked past the limits
of Laramie
until she was way out
on the Plains
all alone.

There she lay
on a little rise
with her back to a sagebrush,
a big, flat rock,
and the wind.

she tuned by soul to the song
of the Snowy Range,

and she thought about…


Why is it that I need
a space like this to
keep me sane?

Why can’t I find my solace
with friends and company,
like they do?

Why do I always wind up




God, how I wish a place
like this

with not a goddam soul in sight

was Home.
Long Term Goals

To live life with purpose, with passion,
sucking it all with great slurps
like sacred water,
orgasmic twitters fingering the high notes,
strumming the bass,
with finesse and grace.

To have descendants
ubiquitous and stubborn as sagebrush,
adaptable and illusive as coyotes,
challenging everywhere their colleagues,
their constituents, their countries
to ever expanding
scopes of integrity and

And to write words that sweat truth
a century from now.
In Scotland Time and Space Collapses

We stood above carved stone
spelling ancestral names buried
a good two centuries,
gazed through mist to island and sea and island,
roofless walls and fences,
rock, organic as a love affair
fingered piece by bloody piece
into place by fingers whose blood
might now burn and sing
in our veins.

Sensed the resonance of pain,
futile hopelessness of clearances
that lingered, and visceral connections
that leapt generations
flitting foolish
just above this—our single earth.

Drank water cold and clear and overabundant
from a pewter cuach, symbolic and marked
with Ulva rock.

Thanked all the old Gods
that when they had to go
these people, becoming us,
found their way to a country so
big, so open, and
so dry.

We are because they were,
we live because they died,
and we thrive because they would not
lay down—they gathered and went

We called there,
(at deepest midnight),
our home bound children had finished breakfast,
already they were spinning off into their own
new dawns.
Dear Friend,

Right now…
we trot through
darkened days,
the air is close,
confusion reigns.

We know you chose.
We know that
is not the choice you made.

What matters now
is not what mattered then,
and what mattered then
to bring us here
does not matter
any more
at all.

We seek, but may never find, the solace
that you sought for us.

You go ahead.
We’ll come behind.
We’ll clear the trail,
scatter wide the pride and pain,
gather close your love, your dignity, your style.

Then…we’ll try
to trot through lighter days
where the air is free,
and the sun shines bright,

and we’ll hold your memory high.
This is What It is Like…

To give and give and give and give
until you think you can give no more,
but still you can,
and you do.

And to have it returned a thousand-fold.

To touch bare throbbing heart to bare throbbing heart,
and to have it hurt,
no more than light electric tickles,
or long, smooth caresses.

To leap ear-ringing spaces,
land safe, warm and easy,
swim wild indulgent decadences,
over and over and over

To feel the Life in you rise up inside,
reach out and swell
until your body can no longer contain it,
and your mind can’t even
find its limits.

And this, my friend
is what it’s like…

to rest.
On the Passing of a Champion
(for Turk Greenough, who said that the secret to Life is to “stay in tune.”)

Turk, you stroked your spur lick symphony
with lifted rein and turned out toes
astride a million twisting, pounding, jump-and-kicks
across a thousand wild arena miles
you rode ten seconds at a time.

We thought we might
divvy up your ashes into fifty little piles
poured with reverence…and awe,
into the open, un-gloved hands of fifty cinched-up champions
in fifty fine arenas, just before they “turn ‘em out,”
and by the winning whistle
the pieces that were you, would forever be a part of the
arena earth you loved.

Instead, just like you wanted
we take you back into Montana,
set your stone beside your folks
and make a simple place where
the friends you always treasured
might lay a hand and reminisce
upon the legacy you leave.

And, Turk…
may your free soul
make a time-less, space-less, perfect ride
through flitting cloud…the sudden breeze
that touches manes
or flips some fringe
and may the rider setting down
to boot the stirrup, measure rein,
feel your hand, and hear your whisper
say, “Good luck…my friend…ride pretty

“Just stay in tune.”
Great Grandchildren of the West

We are the children of the children of the children
who fought each other.

Red and black, yellow and white,
chaos of humanity and directions,
mutual maternity more powerful
than violence a-horseback.

And now we come dancing to the center,
toes digging for water,
fingers tickling the sky.
Music of our many cultures
keeping time with wind, and thunder.

The multitude does not concern us,
we stand with creatures of the open—
cattle, cougar, caballo, badger, antelope and prairie dog—
and like the owl we
hoot above
the gramma, sage, and prickley pear,
grassland tapestry.
The home of those
who seek the breast of birthing earth.

It’s what we know that makes us different,
the knowledge of our nakedness,
the elder lore of grazing and the hunt,
that we are moisture born
and die alone,
that only things of import happen,
and the seasons cannot be stopped.

We measure our wealth in units of space
and our lives by our far-flung friends,
and it may be that we
are neither clan, nor family, nor tribe
but we are something…
no one word describes.

As our fortunes ride from
dust-dry thin to snow-pack deep
and back again,

the breezes clean us,
no fence can hold us…

we are the great grandchildren of the West.
Between Mates

Yesterday, while you were away
and I was in Wyoming with the Folks
we stepped outside, lifted hands and
hat brims high to feel the wet
cling slick and cool onto our face.

“I love rain like this,” I said.

“My old Grandma would call this one a soft day,”
said Dad, and soft it was
second day of soaking wet
barely more than mist
dripping trees, big open space
snugged close and gray
in cotton haze.

“Grandma was married about three times,”
he said. Something none of us had heard before,
and in answer to our arching brows,
“outlived them all,” he said.

“I guess you never had the chance to know her,”
he says to me.
“Neither did I,” sad Mom, “Anna was gone
before I found you.”
“She was like your Grandma Myrtle,” he says to Mom,
thus invoking the name of our well-worn family saint—
the good one, the kind one, the patient one who never complained—
“Anna Drube was small and awful good like that,” he says.

My tender insides swelled and smiled
at Mama’s bemused surprise,
at fond recalls of long dead grandmas,
and to think that some thirty-seven annum’s hence
there are still these small revealings
between mates.

And I see how it is bound to be
between thee and me…

my love.
Reverie in the Evening

One sip from the tin cup.

I hear in the quiet timbre of his words
of the loving daughter on whom he
cast his eye…hear
of the teams of big horses
Pat & Mike
Rex & Tex
Mutt & Jeff
On and on and on…

Each memory its’ own reminder that
he is still alive.

Together we read the skies,
an open Irish text
heavy with dust and flies.

Then he tired.

Together we watch the bright,
dancing sun fade…
twilight coming fast across the flat.

A feather drifts slowly

Odyssey With Cows

in the time of plenty
is an anomaly
we lean to.

For we have wandered long
and searched for such solaces
as we could find…
mired in a slough of
difficult circumstances,
sloshing between the
desperate but full-bellied
times of cows
with no money,
and the even more
disturbing and trying
times of money
but no cows.

Our odyssey has been,
a long sojourn with
many changes of fortune.

Thanks to those Scotch and Irish
tyranny escapees
who slipped their chains
and lurched into this
open land,
swallowing it whole
and violent,
so now the land itself
exudes from the
pores of generations.

Thus our forbears
preserved an ancient
Celtic insistence on
self determination,
propagated an archaic
to the powers and pleasures
of nature.

What I want to know is…
in this particular, multi-generational
odyssey with cows

where is that
god damn
golden fleece?

Maybe we should
reconsider sheep?
Big Horns

In the bosom of the Big Horns
the spirits on the breeze
come chittering and chattering,
circling and prattling,
around me.
They brush the hair on my arms,
pat lightly the back of my neck,
tickle my ankles,
whisper in my ears.

I think they are checking
my credentials.

I must be acceptable.
They wander away
riffling leaves and
conversing amongst


Tribal politics,
complexity plethora,
the feds,
the states,
the tribes,
plenty of ways to point fingers,
no need to take responsibility…
or is that smoke signals?

All the water
belongs to us,
all the land
belongs to us,
give us all the money,
don’t ask for anything,
we’ve already given plenty.
You owe us.

Just write the check.
Don’t ask for accountability.
We are a sovereign

4:46 am

In the morning,
coffee is not yet ready,
the dark,
the idle, occasional
of a left-over rain
soft and easy
most of the night.

It is times like these when
one resents the whirr of a refrigerator,
the ticking of a clock,
a creak of floor.

Ah…sweet silence
wrap us up and warm us
just a tiny

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Big Lonely

Why is it that
A hundred sections of rock and grass
With absolutely nobody on it
Except you, a horse, and some scattered cattle

Is never lonesome
And sounds like paradise,

But a trailer house
In town, full of closed-in kids
Too many neighbors and too much noise

Is more . . . lonely
Than anything I've ever known?

Ah . . . it is indeed a tragedy
To contain so much open space
In one misplaced

What I need is a back-country coyote pair
Just outside
"Go to it, folks"
Drown out the town dogs and . . .

Howl one for me.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

See You On the Other Side

The world before is swirling chaos
Ugly, dancing, grasping blackness

But I am not afraid!

Belly-deep burns a pit of ancient, ancestral, determination
A war horse rears between my thighs
A bear rises swiftly behind me...before me...
Beside me

And so we ride laughing...heart racing...
Into the screaming vortex

"See you on the Other Side!"

Knowing full well that the blood behind me
The horse beneath me, and the bear beside me
Have met in the center of the storm
And we ride together on


(for Joe Bruce)