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Archive for June, 2015

As the June windsIMG_1686
die down
it turns dry
and hot
in the high prairie,
wild grasses brittle
and browning,
give way to deer flies
dedicated to
finding any delicate
flesh,
for their short lives:
vicious in sting,
determined
in desire
to procreate
desperately
lapping blood
to feed their eggs.IMG_4507 (1)

The dog stands frozen
just past the sage,
shaking his head,
as if he’s been
invaded by
little tiny aliens
consuming his every inch
of brown flesh:
he lunges at the enemy
teeth flashing,
head darting
side to side
like a yoyo,
for once he listens
to my call
and rushes to the door,
into the sanctuary of home.IMG_4724 (1)

It’s days like these
we wait out the heat
and flies
with naps,
books
and dreams,
or a poem:
simple,
and direct
like the length
of the day
when time moves:
a long
shadow,
the rumbling
of far off thunder
heralding not a drop of rain.

After dusk ,
when the flies
have drunk their fill,
and the deepest
heaviest summer sun
begins to sink,
we venture
to the nearest glade.
The dog leads –IMG_1585
his floppy ears
dancing
as he lopes safely
to the thick
grove of aspen
and fir
that fills
the deep ravine.
His nose
sifting
in the cool shade
the many who
slept in this glade
waiting out the heat:
elk or deer
have matted down the grasses,
and under
the shade of boulders
fox hid their prey,
while ravens shrieked
warnings
across the ditch
which once long ago
held cool arctic waters.
He stops
and sniffs
fallen
aspen,
rotting
and slowly
disintegrating
feeding
the grove
to regenerate again.
He sniffs long
and closes his eyes
to get a closer
reading,
a more astute
picture
of lynx
having teethed
on these logs,
cleaning their jaws
of jackrabbit blood –
the hair on his ridge
stands:
a flag
at full mast,
and warned
he lopes further
into the cool shade.

Above us
a red tailed hawk
circles,Red-tailed_Hawk_l07-52-061_l
her high pitch call
verifying
a nest is close,
or perhaps
warning
coyote
are on the prowl,
on the night hunt
where dogs
are sweeter prey
than rabbit.

The dog bounces
jumping
all fours in the air
like his wolf ancestors
landing loudly
on the dry earth,
forcing the field mice to scamper.
He seems to relish
this indelicate dance,
over and over
till I laugh
in the pure delight
of his joy.

As the air cools
and sandhill cranes
fly over us,
their long awkward
bodies
stretched
toward the night light,IMG_1255
I can hear the river
loud
past the long shadow
of the day:
it rumbles
sweetly
like a lullaby
only those
in these dark hills
can hear,
it calls
to all
beckoning
dreams
of winter days
where the snow
melts in the warmth
of our mouths
and makes
us sing to the coming
of summer
to the birth
of life
to the renewal
of love.
Here in these hills
we are healed
to live
for yet
another year.

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Georgia O’Keefe knew a good thing –
the thinness of the desert air
creates a veil :Georgia O'Keeffe Paintings 107
a magic wand
across the vast space
luminous
vibrant
a natural
palate
lush in its reds
and golds –
a sea of warm tones
as deep
as the blood of generations
of native peoples
slowly seeping
over the years
through these lands
past these cliffs
through arroyos
and up
to stormy summer monsoon
nights
lightning in the skies.

I’m not a painter,
but if I were
I’d chose this Montana mountain light
with its lush shadows
that frame the prairie
every dusk:
charcoal
saturating
sage
and summer grasses,
slashing
rocky
mountain peaks
into
giant jigsaw shapes
the eye can barely hold.

By the river
the shadows
quiet the brightness
of the rushing
riffles
breaking over stone
and pebble;
softening the edges
of the golden
banks
giving both fish
and fisherman
a respite
from the sun.

The greens:
olive,IMG_4523
sage,
kelly
bright
teal
apple
mustard
dark
viridian
pine
upon
earthen brown
paint my every step,
as I trudge
past reminders
of how vast space
can create
loneliness
desperation –
of men who onceIMG_4720
tried to farm
and carve
a life in these hills:
here
an old pine shed,
there
a metal wheel
everywhere
a song they whispered
in the long winter nights…..

Like Georgia,
I found
the hues,
the palate,
from which
I fill
empty spaces
in my heart .
In the night,
the greens surrender
to black
skies
dotted with trillions
of golden dreams
I call to me,
and if I’m very lucky
I catch one,
to weave it
into my canvas
of words.

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This is the longest day of the year
in the northern hemisphere:
here in Montana
you feel it.IMG_4697 (1)
At dawn
the sky burns
a flaming ring
into the horizon,
like a bloody rose
lighting the Gravely range

The dog raises one ear
toward the door,
anxious for
my meditation
to be done;
after all
why this ritual
he seems to say-
I am ever
present,
why must you
struggle with it so?
but no one
and no thing
can rush me today.
There is no agenda.
no goal,
no plan,
just time
long
and wide ahead of us
that is what my smile
tells him.

The sage is still
verdent and fragrant,
These rains are welcome,
it’s been a long time:
when my sons were small
they would break our day
in two –
having to leave the river
and the fishing
to read or play
quietly in our tent –
often napping,
our hair slightly moist,
filling the tent with
the scent of last night’s
campfire.
We waited them out –
those afternoon storms,
only to be rewarded
with rising trout,
the river alive
with the chaos
of a caddis hatch.

We move as a team,
the dog and I.
He in the lead,
I bring up the rear.
The wild flowers
burst through the
flat green scape
in yellows,
whites
blues
and reds.
They make me think
of tropical fish
in warm green waters,
but the wind
is anything but warm:
constant
and wet
heralding the rain
over the back ridge.

The shrill cry of a pika
announces
our approach,
then the ravens
caw loudly
and soon the magpies
add their cackling to the chorus.
Through the grove of aspen
we enter the ravine
and follow a path
muddied by elk
not long ago.
Their musty scent
is on the bark
of fallen limbs
we climb over,
a grassy glade
is dotted with their scat.
Across the ravine
we can hear their hoofs
along the rocky ledge
long before we glimpse
the golden brown
cloud –
bulls leading
the cows
breaking ground
and anything in their way
to the highlands
where they will find
sweet and long wild grasses
to gorge on
and pair up
under the cool nights
and star lit skies.
We sit
on a rock ledge
and watch –
the dog knows better
then to try
and follow.
They are too far,
so he sniffs the air
and closes his eyes briefly
as if to drink up the sight
only to later
chase them
fervent
and swiftly in his sleep.

I offer him water:
he laps the drops off the rock’s ledge
with relish,
and with his second wind
rushes ahead
into the deep ravine. IMG_4691 (1)
I plow slowly down,
caught mid stride
by a young mule deer
running in my direction.
I can see his velvet antlers
as he bounds past me,
the dog in pursuit:
Off to my right,
they go out of sight.
Soon the dog will tire,
and come back
grinning,
for he has proved his point:
he is ever present
in the sheer
clarity of the moment.
No past,
no future
no regrets
just all tail and tongue.

The walk back to the house
brings two antelope
across the road,
they turn
and taunt the dog.
He has just enough
spunk
to chase,
but soon the go from loping
to warp speed,
their white flat butts
waving
goodbye through the sage.
It’s a game they play,
and he is willing.

The dusk begins so late –
on this special day.
Hours after resting and tea,
we venture out yet again
to watch the hawk display.
After the rain,
the ground shimmers
and the gravel is strangely silent.
Soon the prairie hawks
begin their display
gliding in the drifts
looking for voles
or gophers.
The kestrels nesting
by the house,
glide in unison,
their painted faces
like war paint
terrifying the scampering mice.
In the distance over the river,
geese fly in formation,
and as the light begins to fade
an owl shrieks.
But soon, the best will come:
the crescent moon
rising over the cliffs
suspended
before setting low into the hills,
the stars filling the sky
from ridge to ridge,
coyotes
singing their night song
and the dog
lays down
to dream
to dream
to dream…..

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Part I

My father, Luis Zalamea was born in 1921
high in the Andean city of Bogota,
when the only way to get anything
of value was still by donkey.
He was the “love child”
of old parents –
an odd boy
who by his own telling
was often lonely
in a large household,
where chickens still ran in the center courtyard
and cooking was done in separate and cozy
hut round a kerosene stove:
he would wonder there to find
luscious sweets and warmth
but mostly to cuddle against
what he called
“the ample bosom” of the cook.
His parents left him an orphan early on,
his older brothers long gone from home,
so his sister – sweet Margarita
took on his upbringing,
and as was expected,
put off her own marriage
to raise him best she could…..
Sweet Margarita – he called her,
like the daisies she grew in her garden.
And so, my father
sprouted as tall as all his brothers,
like the true Bedouin lineage he carried.
Tall and lanky
and always hungry –
for the treats from the cocina,
cooked or otherwise –
“That’s where I learnt the joy
of more than food…” he would say
and smile sheepishly.

Oh father mine,
so unique in your tastes
and intellectual pursuits –
off to America for schooling
and adventure –
living the life of a poet
in the streets of Manhattan,
drinking with the beat generation
and waking up in the warm beds
of tall Anglo women
who loved your swarthy looks
and latin charm…..
and then you found your
way into the chain of parental destiny,
with little to guide you.

You told me once that
I was conceived in Cape Cod –
a last ditch attempt
to save a failing marriage.
Glad you made the effort.
I never thanked you.

Our bond was so strong and forged
by something way past any logic,
after all
you were an absent father for many years.
But memories don’t lie:
wine mixed with water and sugar in my own
wine glass,
and french bread so crisp
even the noise of your favorite
bistro could not fade
its clear crunch as you cut it
into
bite size
morsles
with which to ladle
olive oil,
olives,
cheese,
salami
and dark chocolate.
We would sneak back
into the house
after dark
and I could smell the chocolate still
on my tired fingertips
as you tucked me in….

In the 60’s I came to know you,
as I searched for my own
rebellious identity.
You never judged,
any of my artistic meanderings,
but knew in your heart,
I would one day settle
on the same true love
as yours –
la poesia.
Once you told me that you
didn’t write because you wanted to,
but because you had to –
like an addiction that gave
your life meaning,
but also tortured it –
“to write is to hurt – sometimes others…”
Your wives would agree, I am sure.
But I got the best of it –
the addiction with
the guidance of
a true mentor:
“have balance – don’t sacrifice it all for writing –
it will bite you in the butt – take it form me.”
Three wives, four children
and countless disappointments
did not ever dissuade you:
“writing is my one true love,
and in the end,
all I really have.”
I would beg to differ,
but that is past the point.
Part 2

My son’s had their father
only for a brief time.
He died young,
and left them too soon.
He would be proud
of his sons
today,
24 years later.
But it was his death
who gave birth
to their love of this
river – the Madison.
He led me here,
and in many other ways
over the years,
so that I could help them
find their father
past the memories,
the pictures,
the stories,
the sounds
and tastes they linked to him –
the quiet presence
and stable
cowboy boots firm in the ground,
the steady voice
and guiding hand:
sometimes throwing a baseball,
other times helping complete
a project for scouts
or school –
reading out loud,
fervent in his presence:
he was not an absent father:
just gone too soon.
On this river,
he teaches them still:
about the perfect fly
to imitate the hatch,
leads them to the spots
where there is structure
and trout love to hold.
He has shown them
that patience pays,
over years of trudging
this river in heavy waders,
through sun and rain.
They can hear his voice
over the fast flowing riffles,
and feel his hand
steady over theirs:
releasing fish
to swim yet another year.
I know they have come
here
to these shores
and cried their deepest regrets,
or shared their heartfelt joys,
many times over the years:
men they are now –
fathers in their own right.
Part 3
Tomorrow is Father’s Day.
Here in these mountains
both these fathers speak to me.
In the wind of the tall grasses,
through the rows of aspen trees,
in the song of the meadowlark at dawn,
in the thunder of the
sharp summer storm,
in the call of the lone wolf,
or the barking of coyotes,
sometimes I hear them
in the wings of the redtail hawks
who fly low in the afternoon drifts.
They are present everywhere
I turn.
Today a sharp shinned hawk
flew over the sage meadow
our house faces,
and as sudden as the clouds
shifted,
a kestrel chased him far from
the nest he has built
over our deck:
it was a warning –
this is my place,
these are my boys
and I look after them.
Be gone.

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