by Don Thompson
Last night I found her name
Listed in the catalog
Of dead sisters.
Just one of many—so many.
Touching it, my finger burned,
My tongue flickered
With a cold fire that never dies out
Somewhere essential within me.
Dark in Grandpa’s barn, afternoon
Starlight through holes in the roof.
Squalid straw, manure,
Insistent sting of ammonia.
Fly sizzle only emphasizes
How silent it is—how unnerving.
Cows stay on task, ruminant,
But the old pinto side-eyes me;
Bares her yellow tombstone teeth,
Daring me to ride…
I did. And she failed to scrape me off
On fence posts, branches, the barn door.
Not quite wind, a largo hum
In a flat minor
Oppresses, bears down on us.
Dark clouds on cue.
Finches that usually litter the trees,
Imperturbable doves have no use
For afternoons like this
And take refuge, leaving
Two crows, their worn-out
Black suits shiny, that just sit—
Bored as paid mourners
Waiting for last rites to begin.
This long life—like fruit
Rotting on the tree,
Unpicked because unapproachable
On thin branches beyond reach.
Still up there. Remembering
Not those gone in season,
But the unripe, hard and green,
That fell too soon.
Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. A San Joaquin Almanac won the Eric Hoffer Award for 2021 in the chapbook category. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at www.don-e-thompson.com