GHOST RANCH: PLEIN AIR #1
At the core: pilsner meadow
slants left, rush of sage embraces
windsong, navigates & excoriates
Chimney Rock sandstone, steers
snow towards Cerro Pedernal in May.
The focus on distance here is too easy.
Don’t let your eyes settle high upon bluff
and mesa, on exploding white clouds
cutting across the mirage of dusk sky:
purple thistle, starburst, the yellow
bloom show of yucca. Don’t overlook
the meadow: low, earthy, muting & mixing
voices through the side-oats grama.
Always, the meadow crafts a swaying
hush, takes us as we come:
by heavy footfall or animal crawl.
As a kid, the Canadas always fascinated me.
So few descended in the Sacramento Valley
among the tule fog and rice fields. The deeper
pitch, the driftwood underbelly, and banded
black neck such a welcome contrast
against the impervious Snows.
“Honkers,” my dad would say, pointing at some speck
on the horizon, impressing me with his vision
and knowledge, “Branta canadensis.” The birds
appeared to me only upon his encouraging. Our backs
pressed into the rice checks, we watched their lilting flight
carry on through the dampness toward the Black Buttes.
Only in those fields of Richmond Hunting Club
was my father infallible and at peace. I learned
to appreciate the strained echo of the Snow geese
rising in swirling swift masses, like storms
I would later fear rolling across the plains
toward my new home in the old Dacotah Territory.
A quarter-century gone, I stand at the edge of Iowa,
search for the skein of honkers I hear approaching
from some vast place I still fail to see. They break
the cloud bottoms, the silent edge of gloom,
shadows dropping in blowing snow. In the numb cold,
I wait for his voice and listen to their beating wings.
Andrew Jones teaches writing at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. His writing has appeared in recent issues of Hobart, The Tishman Review, and Memoir Mixtapes.