21 January, 2007

Tales of the South Platte

Once upon a time, a warm sea rolled in response to moon's gravity, drinking in the runoff from winter rains where now, dry winds sing across the arid short grass prairie. We who have chosen to live on the Eastern foothills of the Central Rocky Mountains have dreams, sometimes, of those salty and shallow seas. That was millenium upon millenium ago, some would call it antedeluvian... reptilian.

I am convinced that echoes of those memories resound in the spirits and souls of those of us who watch the dreams and listen. Here are three poems that reflect the facets of this unique land.


Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts and Big, Big Horses
My beloved laughed yesterday.
“Nice to know,” her voice rippled in the evening,
“Nice to know we share
A mutual love affair.”

Absent minded, automatic I replied:
“Honey, I love you too.”
There was silence, then a soft sigh.
“No sweetie, I’ve been thinking
As you work your kitchen magic.
We have this passion for strange vegetables.”

Her voice turned my conscious mind
Into the present, hearing a heart absorbed
In thoughts of our years together
And paths walked apart.

I knew I loved her when green eyes
Sparkled at my choice of
Brussel Sprouts to dance a
Bright spring’ringle ‘round roasted chicken.

Or dark green broccoli nestled against
A paschal lamb, crisp and fragrant wild,
Or pheasant and mushrooms, thick sage
And winter spinach, the last of the year.

Then twin thoughts, one December day
As we looked one into one another souls,
“The Stock Show’s comin’ to town!
Let’s go smell the leather, cow pies
And horse sweat working the turned earth.”

“Yeah, the big guys!” her voice ripened.
“Belgiums, Percherons, Clydesdales and Shires
Gentle giants, strong and wise.
Stephen, I want to see them!”

Another piece of life’s crossword puzzle
Slipped into place as her dark eyes flashed.
The pieces fit into a shared love and alliteration;
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts and big, big horses.


Saturday Morning Heroes

Bright infant light bordered that fantastic land where

Kinetic youth tumbled, reckless and fear was not a word.

Mom's warm arms cradled me in fevered dreams,

Long fingered hands outstreched defied demon nights.

Rosebud lipstick smile, better than summer sunlight.

Kitchen love served unending banquets of laughter;

Buttergold toast, sliced bananas, cornflakes, milk and

TV time, magic flickering light wrote an endless script where

Saturday morning heroes always won in black and white.

A perfect shining sphere, just mom and I; the center of the world.

Where sometime satellites, in tangent, touched our land:

Saturn like, Grandpa's calloused hands held me close,

Ripe fragrance of pipe smoke and whiskey gruff voice.

Grandma Monie, lavender and lace gathered me in

Fierce, loyal loving hands one finger short of ten.

Slight imperfection in my world of Saturday morning men;

Sky King, the Lone Ranger and Tonto; then brave above all,

Ramrod straight, Canadian crisp uniform and noble dog:

Sargent Preston of the Yukon, again, he saved the day.

One slipstream Saturday night I felt the flow of change.

In Monie's arms I flew a noisy silver bird to a strange land.

A cold place I did not know, my golden sphere shattered;

Crumbled rusty dead in dusty red, Colorado sands.

Sickness burned inside my head and fear was born.

Brother Silence crept through the door, befriended me,

Took my hand, taught me the bitter lesson of mistrust.

In Monie's quiet studio, where paint and clay and wood

Spoke a language I did not know, I found a yearning new.

TV's heroes slipped away in flickering memory

While I and Brother Silence forged new life in crayons and clay

And the soft murmur of classical music on the radio.

- In memory of my grandmother, Lois Ripley Martin;"Monie"

- Her fierce and quiet love sustained me.


South Platte Song
Far above the wind torn timberline
Winter's ice melts in your veins and sings
Tumbling down o'er granite courses and
Laughs a hurried way into South Park,
Where buffalo once nursed their young in verdant spring.
Great shaggy spirits grazed on sweet grass;
Grew strong, drank deep your cold crystal life
Till fences, dams and cattle drove their weight
Deep into the land where only ghosts remain.

Running dark canyons you rush again,
Eleven Mile, Cheeseman; past man's hand:
Scraggy View, Foxton and Pine.
Gravel brown and slow from Waterton on east;
Then north, to greet your wild Wyoming sister.
There whiskey mouthed French phantoms
Trapped spirit beaver along your muddy shore.

Fever brained in rich visioned greed,
Muscle taut miner's sweat wished fortunes,
Gold laden, out of your gravel skirts
Hidden in petticoat sands of ages lost.
Now quiet, memories murmur in flight
Tangled in your cottonwood tresses:
September doves twist and dive
Above Summer's ochre shadows.
Winter dark ducks call you home.
Ice crystal eyes greet December's geese,
Huddled in bosom warm water sloughs.

Long before man's machines and dams you sang
Pregnant songs in lush Spring floods.
What harmonies were hidden,
Layered deep under driftwood snags?
How many melodies have you hummed
In the dragonfly summer heat?
What symphonies flowed entwined
Midst green willow's sultry whispers?

Sandy brown river lady,
Gather thirsty life to your
Rich, full belly and roll on
The constant water song.
Do you sense my transient form;
This hobo's heart born to wander?

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