Ranch Poems

Stephen Page

 

 

Last Night I Dreamed Rain

 

The clouds quickened under a wax

moon, then settled around plastic palm

fronds. My truck stuck in river bed

three, and just like the time it slipped

into a ditch, I tried to push it out

alone, putting it in gear, then straining

under the bumper, only this time the Tale

Teller arrived on tractor without my call.

Voiceless, I accepted his pull, the Fence

Builders heying from a distance. The damp Cat

rubbed my bare legs while I smoked

a filterless cigarette and the Blonde Collie Bitch chased

white ponies around the yard. A blue-eyed

blonde woman, her hair plastered

to her face, her freckles sheening, a scotch

on the rocks in her hand, offered me a blow

job while I barbequed blood

sausage and tenderloin. A pebble-sized

coal, meant to sizzle the meat, rolled 

off the brick platform and plopped

into the sand, burrowed under my shoe and came

to rest against the dry grass edging the lawn. 

I poured out half a cold beer to extinguish the flames,

and then it began to rain.

 

 

The Horseback Vet

 

My white pickup was splashing mud

when I lept out

near the wood in lot twenty-one.

 

A cow was lying on her side,

her eyes rolled back,

throat gurgling air.

 

A calf was stuck halfway out

of the uterus, bloody faced, tongue lolled,

crimson bubbles popping from its nostrils.

 

I grabbed it by the forelegs

and tugged it out, cleared its nose

and throat with my fingers.

 

I pressed on the cow’s chest

every five seconds, then stroked

them both and whispered reassurances;

 

but I feared I had arrived too late

to prevent them from lifting

into eucalypti leaves.

 

Then He rode up behind me,

jumped from his horse,

syringes strapped to his belt.

 

He rubbed placenta on her nose

grabbed her by the tail and spun her around

so she could fully scent her calf.

 

We watched her wobble to her feet,

the calf rolled over onto his stomach

and pricked up his ears.

 

 

On Ranching

 

All this ass kicking and horse riding

and calf pulling and gate lifting and truck

pushing has herniated my abdomen.

The fleeting rain does not puddle as

it did last month. Constants are

falling fenceline and the need

for grass. I have been here before.

I have been here before. The new

gaucho enters my office for the first

time, and I have seen his face

somewhere. Here. His black sombrero,

bombachas, and silver spurs; his white beach

hat, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. Again, again. 

The mail lady’s red hair keeps me supplied

with stamps. Me Tarzan, you Jane.

A rice shoot leans against my desk

lamp, and outside, wheat is shin

high. Cut the thistle, cut the thistle. 

The security chain we had for months

on gate twenty-eight seems

can be slipped right over the post.

Have you ever had brain cells zapped

by an electric fence? The Cultivators

are fumigating again. A beetle falls

upon my notebook. I must keep

the calves from vaginal death,

and the cows exploding from bloat.

 

 

 
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Stephen Page is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for Poetry. He loves to spend time with his family, teach, ranch, and stroll through the woods.