A Darkening Sky



The scent of freshly mown alfalfa

perfumes the purple night sky.

My grandfather’s ranch: no lights,

no houses, no people or machines

within 20 miles. He liked it that way.


He rode his horses in the silent dawn.

Massive beasts, they accepted

his small frame. The stables smelled

of saddles and hay and newly planed

wood. Nothing escaped his touch.


He watched me ape his movements

atop a painted pony. Tiny in the saddle,

I tried to exert my will, right then left. No

signal reached my partner. The horse loped

around the corral, hoping for food or rest.


When he died, my grandfather left

a long legacy. His spirit populated

the vast, rolling prairie. His horses

sold to respectful townsfolk

in need of a lively companion.


I never mounted a horse again, although

the feeling of height and weight and power

stayed with me. Cowboy ways are not the poet’s

ways. We lift words off the page, only to settle

them back in place, meaning what they will,


never reined in to turn figure-eights

against a darkening sky, never held fast

to follow a mapped-out route, never led

to water they would not wish to drink,

never silent in the wake of purple storms.

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