Where one leak seemed fixed, another springs up. Well, isn’t that the way it goes? Stained wood, stained mattress. Damp kitchen, scary room.
Stove going. I was in the dirty attic. Three-legged chairs, canceled checks, dauber nests by the hundred. I go up there because the attic is my place to intercept the rain that finds its way through the farmhouse’s old, fallible roof. Like me, the rain keeps returning, keeps coming back to this remote piece of cattle country in the middle of the state.
A mist rises from the pasture, hangs there like a cloud. Above, the sky is clear. There is, thank God, no wind. It is still. I can hear nothing but the nothing that is, the nothing that once will be everything. If you would be so kind as to scatter my ashes here. If you would allow me to play the part of the sandstone, to let the water through.
The mice are back. Two traps, old cheese, picked clean. Leave the droppings where they lay. Wise rodents. Re-bait, try again...
A short missive from Farm, from late last year...
A single bract
With a nutlet at its base
A flowering branch
A beech with its smooth gray bark
“It was more or less darkly mottled.”
Every vein ended in a tooth
It sent up suckers, so you see
Large trees were often surrounded
By little ones
Deer tiptoed at the margins
Browsing on coppice growth
Deer, most evenings
At the forest edge
Today I ate three small, round, plump persimmons. They were of an orange hue, tasting somewhat sweet, a little juicy. Fleshy. I didn’t know much about persimmons until recently. Probably I ate one or two somewhere along the line but when and where and why I cannot say. These persimmons were from a stately tree with silver-green leaves that stands out now in the north end of the cattle pasture at a place I call Farm, a plot of sixty acres of mixed pasture, scrub, and hardwood forest in eastern Miller County, Missouri.
This past winter I set out to begin relieving this land of the burden, of the scourge of eastern redcedar infestation. These cedar trees, which aren’t actually cedars at all but a type of juniper that grows as a tree, grow at a quickened pace. With speed and numbers on their side, a gang of cedars will take over just about any landscape, encircling older and taller trees, choking them out, robbing them of water and other resources...
This short essay continues here...
I felt the floor move beneath me
Downstairs activity tremored my tree
Nuts fell all around, inedible, indelible.
So I went to the park, sought out shade
Set my things below a large post oak
Its armlike branches reaching down
To ruffle the grassy hair of the ground.
I tossed a blanket
The rest of the poem...
Ate a butter and bacon sandwich
Tried to get comfortable...
Left Tucumcari, New Mexico at 8:40. The woman at the Best Western when I checked out says, "You look like you could use more sleep." Oh, thanks! What a nice thing for you to say. Yeah, I could have used some more sleep. But other guests stirring early, doors clanging, and then someone freaking out when a cat jumped out of the hallway trash can meant it was time for me to get out of bed. That and needing to drive another eight hours today.
I'm on U.S. Highway 54 headed east. This highway takes me all the way to Wichita. Land is mostly flat. Ranch land. Cattle grazing. Mesas in the distance, to the west. Lots of Aermotors. I've realized that's a trademarked name for the old-style windmills.
Lots of empty buildings here. There were lots of them in Tucumcari, too. That town is hollowed out. Abandoned homes. I suppose Tucumcari had its day. Post World War II. Car culture. Route 66. Before passenger air travel proliferated...
The second and final part of the travelogue continues here...
In eastern Butler County the fields opened up, took on the wispy gold of uncut hay. Not long after that hills appeared. I could see the outcome of geological events, the hint of a rock facade where the road cut through. But the grass didn't mind the hills and it ran long and uncut up and down the slopes still. A valley appeared, a vantage, a vista. I thought of some of that scene from Dances With Wolves where they creep up to a crest and look down to see a herd of buffalo grazing in peace.
It would've been a good place to stop but I was going 75 and I was only an hour into the drive. It's a spot to think about, for another. A spot worth reaching over into the glove compartment and pulling out this notebook for, an emergency notebook, never been written in before, the two notebooks I did bring secure in my bag.
I'm east of Wichita, KS on U.S. Highway 54, where Butler County ends and Greenwood County begins. Hay, cow ponds, the cattle so dark against the golden light of the field, dark against the blue of the sky, against the shapely hills.
FDR had some sort of windbreak tree-planting program. A shelterbelt. I never gave much thought to windbreaks, to trees as a line against the wind. This tree I keep seeing, that is so prevalent, must have been one of the trees of choice for the shelterbelt planting. It's often got a lopsided crown and most of the time its trunk splits into two not far from the ground, a couple of feet, maybe less. This tree, whatever it is, is not at Farm. It's a Dust Bowl thing. Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, northeastern New Mexico.
Continue with Part One of this travelogue...
A fish jumped and
what it was like
the low-dive and
landing on my belly.
Over yonder a tree
on its side
that the beaver hauled down.
Until it drops,
until it alights silently
in the extended arms
of the willow.
A thousand lightning bugs
once invisible sting the
twilight like branding irons.
Soon it will be dark,
though the moon
When he shook
the once-sand bottle
what was left made the sound
of a maple leaf growing
It is not possible, he thought,
and it would not be appropriate
for me to shake hands
with a leaf’s three jagged hands
Who needs leaves anyway?
Nothing but the fruited conspiracy
of seed and soil repetitive, hogwash
But the aging leaf in the bottle
interrupted him saying,
Leaves run their veins in all directions
hoping to report most sun
They are green when they need to be,
and red in their rest allegiant to none
but the season
When he finished drinking the leaf
he searched for a sunrise, any sunrise,
his head tilted back,
in sun-loving obeisance
palm trees wave
like they’ve been
saving me a sea
long-lost waves wash
as I sit and have
and a cuban-made cigar.
With steps across the field you stride,
despite the calf-deep snow.
What lies on the other side?
I ask but you don’t know.
What field, you say, what snow?
To it you bend and place your plow.
Upon bestowment of this kiss,
a cherry-bearing orchard puts to root.
Not a limb does the lucky sun miss,
nor does water overlook a tender foot.
A woodlet free of serpentine hiss
is your breast, and all its fruit.