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JACK GOODMAN
near Buhl, Idaho
About Jack Goodman
 

 

 

 

Feeding Cows After Thanksgiving Dinner

Listen to the snow

whispering through the corn field—

save some pie for me.

 

It’s cold outside

but I know they’re waiting,

the trust in their eyes

 

softer than the snow,

their sweet breath misting the air,

their windward sides

 

all but invisible—

they’ll be lined along the fence,

eyes turned this way.

 

I shouldn’t be long—

I’ll give them an extra bale

and I want to check

 

that youngest heifer

although I know she’s okay.

I might stay a while

 

just to hear them eat—

perhaps I’ll watch the house through

the veil of snow

                                                                                              

and see the lights pale

from the far side of the fence.

In the muted night

 

my breath will join theirs,

my side will become invisible,

my vision shorten.

 

Through curling snowflakes

the house will slowly regress,

indistinguishable

 

from ground and sky—

the world will formlessly vanish

leaving the soft trust,

 

whispering snow,

cows quietly eating,

hushed wind and me.

 

© 2009, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack Goodman comments: The poem "Feeding Cows" was written about the feeling of comfort in having Thanksgiving dinner with my family and then going out into a snow storm to feed my cattle, where the feeling intensified as I became part of the herdthere in the quiet and the cold with their warmth and trust all around me.

This poem is included in our collection of Thanksgiving poems.

 

 

An Old Cow Rope

I love the swing
in Papa's yard
though the rope is rough
and the seat's hard.

Papa built the swing
just for me
and hung it here
in the big elm tree.

It was just a board
from behind the shed
and an old cow rope,
my Papa said.

But when I sit here
and swing so high
I can feel my feet
brush the sky,

when my upward
flight seems to stall
and I don't weigh
anything at all,

then I know how
the birds must feel
when they touch a cloud
and turn and wheel

and dive and climb
and hover there
and swoop and soar
and dance on air.

Then I feel
the heavy ground
pulling, pulling,
pulling me down.
 
Faster and faster
backward I race,
the wind hurling
my hair in my face.
 
Though I can't see
my Papa below
waiting for me,
he is there ...  I know.

© 2009, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack Goodman comments: There is a large, old elm tree in the corner of my yard in which I built a swing for my granddaughter when she was a little girl. The swing is long gone and the little girl is now a young lady with children of her own, but the tree still stands there shading my yard in the summer and framing the sky with its bare branches in the winter. This poem is part of a collection that will constitute my next book of poetry, My Feet Brush The Sky.
 

 

Newborn Calf

The farmer looks
with practiced eye
at the newborn calf
and assigns it
its future based
on genetics, gender,
on conformation,
even color

its mother accepts
it without question,
licks it to a
soft shine and sings
her worried song,
amazed by its sheer presence.

© 2010, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jack Goodman comments: We have had hundreds of calves born here on our farm, each one a miracle all over again. I wanted to show how such a mundane thing can be such a sense of wonder.


 

 

The Lawn Chair

Help him down the steps— go slowly,
there's no need to hurry.
Stop for a bit to listen
to a hawk, flying too high to be seen,
scream with joy as it plummets
through a natural sky.
The lawn chair waits in its usual place,
weathered to the color of pale ashes,
a chair that claims he was not a visitor,
he lived here. Set him there
where he can see his pastures,
his cattle grazing. Let his body fold
to fit the harsh angle of slatted back and seat,
his back to the wind that stirs
the elm leaves and his cloud-colored hair.
Let his dog come sit beside him.
Overlapping rings from overfilled
wine glasses stain forever
the chair's wooden arms where his
once strong hands now alight gently,
like a butterfly visiting a familiar flower.
Listen as he says softly, the scarred
horizon gathering in his eye,
"Look at all my pretty critters."
His translucent shadow floats
across grass and dirt,
joins the indiscriminate wind,
becomes a feather rising and rising.
Return to the house, from here
he must go alone.

© 2011, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack Goodman comments: As we near the end of the path we have been wending, we tend to look more closely—to see if we can justify the footprints we have left on that path. Did we leave something a little better than we found it.? There is some small measure of fulfillment even in the attempt.

 

 

October Wind

The wind seems
personal tonight,
hurling itself
against the house
newspapers muffle
the wind's scream
as it wedges
through cracks
around the door,
leaves pelt
the west side
of the house
like shattered birds.
The moon's frail light
is imprisoned
in a thin
river of clouds,
intermittent stars
switch half on
then fade off.
Dreams careen
around corners,
wispy shreds
torn apart
by the wind's
curved beak
it seems
I was young
for such
a short time.
Words slide
from my pen
to the page
but make no
more sense
than does
the wind
while outside
cattle lie low
in the corral,
the tempo of
their jaws slow,
impersonal,
monotonous.

© 2012, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jack Goodman comments
: October sometimes can be a bleak, bitter month. But it is goodthe wind seasons us, purifies us, makes us see the fragility and the resilience of ourselves and of the land.

 

 

Idaho Farmer

I don't know why I farm at all,
he said with the pain of years in his eyes,
I'm up before light and don't stop
all day and the bank owns more every year.

With dirt under his fingernails
and the land under his skin
he stood there squinting
against the sun even indoors.

My days are long as a river
and dry as the soil I till—
his eyes were bruised with wanting,
his hands trembled from the draining years.

The strain of trying shaped his face
and belied his youthful voice
but the language of the land
spoke louder than his words.

I'll farm one more year, he said,
and then if it don't get no better
I'll quit... I knew he'd used
those words before and would again.

The rhythm of the seasons cadenced
his speech and the habit of the land
shaped him even as he shaped the land.
I knew he'd farm again ... and so did he.

© 2013, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack Goodman comments:  Farming is, to many, a way of life as much as it is a way of making a living. I don't know if a person chooses that life or if it chooses the person.


 

 

Last Day of Winter

Another day like any other
dawn arrives falling from the sky
inexorably rolling across the land
over fence posts rotting in the ground
spindly joshuas pointing long shadows,

far overhead a hawk spirals
reading the currents of bitter air
increasing winds stir sparse grass—
eyes once fierce that spurned the cold
now turn directly into the sun
drifting toward the far horizon.

© 2013, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack Goodman comments: This acrostic poem was written in memory of Clell Bush, a dear friend of mine for more than 50 years, who died on the last day of winter, 2013.

 

 


Things We'll Never Know

The wind is working at
the shingles again tonight,
window panes rattle,

ghostly lilac branches
brush the side of the house
like careless blind birds.

My cat lies dying
on back of the couch,
his breathing shallow, slow.

My notebook lies open
on my lap, tired words
hidden by hand's shadow—

silent letters shift,
the gravity of the page
unable to hold them,

and rise like dark smoke,
words disappear,
whole stanzas vanish,

swept entirely away
by night, incessant wind,
his side's rise and fall.

His ears flicker,
claws barely flex—
what does he dream?

The house settles,
wrapped in softening wind,
night's vortex slows.

There are things we'll never know—
the meaning of a blank page,
a dying cat's dream,

how to fill the silence
when the wind stops,
how common beauty can be.

© 2014, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jack Goodman comments: They say a cat has more than one life. That may be so—I surely thought my cat, Angus, would not make it to morning the night I wrote this. But he did. He's more than 15 years old and has thyroid problems, but he still graces our household with his simple charm."

 

 

 

Newborn Calf on a Summer Afternoon

           In the prison of his days,
         teach the free man how to praise.
           
W.H. Auden – "In Memory of W.B. Yeats"


Faultless blue sky,
not a speck of cloud,
a light breeze, just enough
to comfortably cool sweat-glazed skin—
the day has begun its long
slow winding down.
A meadowlark's exultant song
illuminates the quietness,
a hawk's shadow drifts across
the open pasture,
field mice crouch
under clumps of grass—
most of my life is now gone
and what have I learned?
What have I learned?
Beauty is in simple things
(a liquid-filled eye,
a barely heard breath,
the soft acceptance
of a gentle touch)
and all things must end.         
But in the long slow
winding down, in the prison
of my remaining days,
teach me, O Summer,
teach me how to praise.

© 2015, Jack Goodman
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jack Goodman comments: Poetry attempts to capture ephemeral truths and make them timeless. It fails, of course, but it is a poet's job to try to make as eternal as possible the truths that define his or her poetry.

 

 

 


 

  About Jack Goodman (2009):

Cattleman, poet, mountain climber, Jack Goodman lives on his farm near Buhl, Idaho where he raises purebred Dexter cattle.

Becky Bartholomew of Uintah Springs Press comments, "[A] poem Jack wrote, about horses, is, to my knowledge, the only free verse Western Horseman magazine has ever published."

Uintah Springs Press published Jack Goodman's chapbook, Wind Songs from Turtle's Back:


2009

Any poet who can give you "the flight of swallows / busy as typewriters" and "the burning rust of a desert rose" has deepened your ability to see and to hear, to savor our miracle of perception.—Kim Stafford, author of The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and other pleasures of the Writer's Craft

Wind Songs from Turtle's Back is available from the Uintah Springs Press and from Amazon.

 

 

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