Folks' Poems

Back to Lariat Laureate Contest
Back on home
Back to the list of Folks' Poems

North Carolina
About Jay Bryan





Through twilight and sage brush,
sixteen feet a bound,  thirty-five miles an hour
streaks a muzzle
stretching from earth to sun,
toward black angus
kneeling with curved backs. 

Weaving among the panicked
rumble of hooves and white eyes,
its forty-two teeth  
strip flesh from silky flanks
to the delight of furry pups
tagging along on the ridge line above.

Under Wyoming’s next day morning sun
ravens protest in lodge pole pine,
burgundy femurs emptied of marrow
lie below,  Indian Paint Brush
and lupine bloom.  In a dry river bed
grazing survivors raise their heads
for a glazed stare:

the young rancher from Dubois guides
his squeamish quarter horse
in a figure eight through torn terrain,
searching for evidence
of what killed the calf
he raised from birth—

if proven by bruising on shreds of hide
to the accompanying,  saddle-sore,
US Fish and Wildlife bureaucrat,
a few more dollars for wolf than bear.


The same morning
in hallways of memory care facilities
pads the angel of dementia.
She gnaws away appetite for ice cream
and hamburger, and how to use a fork,
and after a ten year chase
brings down residents
on the thin, gray carpet
at an open, red-metal farm gate
leading to the green fields
of heaven.

© 2007, Jay Bryan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jay told us: Two summers ago we began riding at the Bitterroot Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming, owned by the adventuresome family of Mel and Bayard Fox and their son, Richard, who is now engaged to our daughter. The property is surrounded by the Absaroka Mountain Range and has unbelievable vistas of the Wind River and Gros Ventre Mountains. The first part of the poem is inspired by the problem at the ranch with wolves killing off some of their cattle. The second part is inspired by my mother, Norma, who died this summer of Alzheimer’s.



“It Seems To Me To Be As I Now See the Things I Think I See”* 

Grass flattens beneath my boots

entering the lake, weed tendrils

billow up and Wyoming’s September wind

rattles my bones.


Bayard keeps walking, net swinging

beside his crooked gait and Hyena’s reverent lope,

until he becomes a piece of driftwood

up to his neck in black water, and I worry.


A purple wholly bugger snaps forward,   driven

in its arc by a nine foot rod and slap

of my wrist painting peaks plummeting

shorn and torn into the distant shore,


and veils of snow fan across the valley,

whispering a wondrous blanket

of woven beads onto my mustache

and frozen fingers,


like the spread of time

uplifting  the hovering pinnacles,

then whittling at them over millions of years

with streams collecting into lakes,  such as this:


I think of climbing their outcroppings

to escape a mountain lion, and slipping,

of having my waders fill with water

and struggling to rise from the spongy bottom,


and then trout fin up to greet me,

eyes curious and friendly, before an osprey’s

talons knife the slate waves

and lift one flapping through the snow.


Later  our fingers slip between the folds

of skin and respectfully empty our limit’s entrails,

kitchen sink the color of Renard’s 2003 Syrah

we sip as evening’s stars appear. 

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


*From Rising from the Plains by John McPhee


Jay told us: My brother-in-law's father, a rancher from Dubois, took me fishing in September. He was seventy-nine at the time. It was raw and cold but beautifully so. I thought of the geological history of Wyoming's mountains, their ups and downs over millions of years, and of my own mortality, with the top of my waders inches from the cold water. I thought of my connection as one creature to another with the trout, osprey and mountain lion. Then it began to snow and I was reminded of how like a speck of sand I was in terms of the universe but also how much living meant to me in that I could experience this moment due to the generosity of Bayard.



  About Jay Bryan:

I am a lawyer and mediator, and I live with my wife in North Carolina with five horses, two dogs, two cats, one duck and one cockatiel, along with five children and five grandchildren who visit and bring immense joy and fun. I write poetry of a variety of styles , including haiku, and about a wide range of subjects, particularly family, nature, loss and love.

My writing has been inspired in part by my great grandfather, Ferdinand W. Lafrentz, who lived in Wyoming when he was in his twenties. He worked for the Swan Land and Cattle Company and served in the tenth territorial legislature where it is my understanding that he helped sponsor the statehood movement. Upon his return to New York, he published in l927 a book of poems about the West and its cowboys with each poem illustrated by illustrator Henry Ziegler. Sale proceeds from the book, which is titled “Cowboy Stuff”, were contributed to an orphanage in Tennessee.

For three summers, my wife, a terrific rider and riding teacher, led our family to ride on cattle drives with the wonderful people of Broadus, Montana, where I was first exposed to the vital character of cowboys and their communities. There I had the pleasure of becoming a friend of Norman Turnbaugh, a special rancher and cowboy poet who taught me a lot about the art of such poetry.



 What's New | Poems | Search

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!


Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form. is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  


Site copyright information