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....
Rising day and falling night,
the bronc and I cut and re-cut
the turning light
in our three-dimensional shapes
this way and that and back,
tie hard and fast to the wind
long as we blow.  No matter
our other sins, I know
that pounding hoof nor falling man
will leave no worse than they have lived
light on the land.  
                                from "Slant of Light"

 

"... at heart Brummels is a rancher, and he is; but at heart he is also a gypsy who cannot resist the urge to go beyond that place he has sunk his roots so deeply into—“to find where / in the journey / the adventure is.” And I’d add that he is a clear-eyed realist, and a teacher, one who lives not only in the classroom and on the land, but who is likewise of them. Alongside his students he is a learner, and the boots he wears more often than not have manure on them. His language derives from both the muck and the sweet clover he walks through..."

           from William Kloefkorn's foreword to Book of Grass

 

           

 

 

About JV Brummels

Selected Poems

Books

Book of Grass, foreword by William Kloefkorn

Contact Information

 

 

New in 2008

 

 

 

Paul Zarzyski writes:

The sonorous essence of rural America, Jim Brummels’ storytelling voice elucidates, once and for all, “that the wild/geography we long to learn always lies just within.” And if we’re fortunate enough to locate it, like, say, finding dynamite “by match-light in the shed,” we’ll realize that it’s comprised of an almost infinite diversity of landscapes and landmarks. Book of Grass (call it “cowboy poetry” and/or call it “cosmos poetry”) guides us, moves us, physically, emotionally, spirituallyeast, west, north, south, outward and, especially “within”through country we’ve seldom, if ever, covered. In short, we’re talking the gospel of unfenced ground, of the wireless wide-open. Jim’s poems speak truth into all lives, into all deaths, into every deep belief in the hereafter. 

 


About JV Brummels
  

A featured reader at the Western Folklife Center's 2004 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, JV Brummels was born and raised on a northern Nebraska cattle ranch. Among his other accomplishments are National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, the Elkhorn Poetry Prize from The Elkhorn Review, and the Mildred Bennett Award from the Nebraska Center for the Book for contributions to Nebraska literature.  

The newest collection of his poems, The Book of Grass, was published in 2008 by Grizzly Books. His previous books of poems include 614 Pearl (Abattoir Editions, 1982),  Sunday’s Child (Basfal Books, 1994) and Cheyenne Line (The Backwaters Press, 2001). His novel Deus Ex Machina was published by Bantam in 1989 and a short story Clay Hills was published as a book by Nosila Press in 1996. His poems and stories have appeared in the periodicals and anthologies Rolling Stone, Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review, Chariton Review, Southwest Review, Kansas Quarterly, Quarterly West, South Dakota Review, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Pebble, A Geography of Poets, The Sandhills and Other Geographies and many others.  

A member of the English Department of Wayne State College since 1977, Brummels has directed the Plains Writers Series and edited Nebraska Territory. He operates Logan House, an independent publisher of contemporary poetry and short fiction.

Brummels currently lives a dozen miles from where his great-grandmother, a German immigrant homesteader orphaned as a child, and great-grandfather, the fireman on the first train to cross Wayne County, met and married.  He was educated at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and Syracuse University.  He lives with in western Wayne County, Nebraska, where he runs a horseback cattle operation.

Western Horseman says Cheyenne Line “displays the gritty realism of ranch life tempered and elevated by Brummels’ strong imagery and command of the language....Brummels allows the reader access to his own stream of thought, his words painting a picture of the view from inside his mind.  The vision might not be what the reader expects or wants to see.  Cheyenne Line and Other Poems isn’t always a comfortable, easy read.  The poetry, however, is thought-provoking, thanks to Brummels’ perspective and his masterful use of the language.” 

                             


 

Selected Poems

 

Long Shadows

Bones

Flat Earthers

Slant of Light

 

 

Long Shadows

All day my partner and I go around
this new parcel of the heifers’ winter range,
dragging brittle barbwire out from under years
of fenceline grass to tack to broken posts,
resting after every stretch, holding our breath
when we turn back to see if the spells
we use to resurrect this ghost will last,
can contain this season the high bench of cornstalks,
the sheltering trees bunched on the morning slope,
the thick rope of cattail-choked willows
thrown slack along the draws that head Sand Creek.

Forty years ago this was farm,
a picturebook range of barnyard stock,
a brood of children my partner calls to mind
through the dayhow all the neighbor kids
tore up the upstairs during card parties,
how they visited back and forth,
the gravel of the road, the dust of the lane
scuffing their brass-eyed lace-up boots.

How the old man and my partner’s great-granddad
teamed up, traded work, neighbored,
set these boundary fences,
clamshelled postholes,
planted fresh-cut posts,
unspooled silver wire over the endgate
as the team leaned into the collars,
jingled bits and creaking leather
a song with the meadowlark’s post-top trill,
the thick whistle of the thermal-riding chickenhawk,
the coaxing grunts and cusses of the teamster.

This day is late October ’99, a season
we’ll recall as clear-skied and milk-mild.
By late afternoon we’ve had enough for one day.
We sit on the tailgate of the pickup for a smoke.
The sun settling on the bench at our back
throws shadows of stumblebum buildings,
wracked cowlot fences and haywire machines
far out before us toward tomorrow morning’s sun.

Do we know anything that the old ones didn’t,
even that every enterprise carries the seed of its dying?
Could they guess that only these few generations
of busted sod would grow cattails this high
in a muck of topsoil washed down from hilltop?
That while the cattails climbed the draws
neighbors and the neighbors’ children
would flood to downstream towns and cities?
That the shorthorn cows and Hampshire hogs
and banties, leghorns, turkeys and geese and sheep
would all be carried away as if by great water? 

Another day of fence repair lies before us.
Then it’s just a matter of finding a cowboy or two
to help drive the heifers over the ridge
that divides this watershed from the next.
A meadowlark vies for our attention.
Our shadows stretch darker and farther
while my partner talks still of the old ones
who built this crib or that shed,
how they walked cattle from place to place
in the days
, he says, before we had horses

                                    for David Tobias

© 2008, JV Brummels, All rights reserved, from Book of Grass.  
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


 

Bones

The backhoe man wears black.  I suppose
the dirt and grease of his work don’t show
that way.  Today, he plays undertaker 

to the first horse I ever bought.
For this man it’s a pretty good fit.
He sympathizes.  I wouldn’t pay

for a hole for just any horse, but this mare
carried my kids when they were little,
and the cowboys I know knew her well. 

They’ll want to pay their respects.  I just
don’t want the dogs dragging her
piece by piece up to the house
, I say.

What I don’t tell him is she died pawing
the ground and staring off to the south,
in the distance something only she could see.

                        *     *     *

Still, by the next spring, the coyotes
have made a den of the grave’s soft earth,
and they’ve drug these few dark long bones

out to bleach in the sun.  The truth is,
I don’t much mind.  If we know anything
it’s that flesh feeds the living.

Death instructs us.  These bones
are rock in their heft, a weight
beyond cow or dog or bird,

a dense history of evolution
from some soft-soled, multi-toed swamp-dweller
to leg and hoof that hammer down distance.

I gather these, one by one, into the cradle
of my arms, carry back to the hole what carried me
so many miles, lay them back away

and stand bareheaded before this grave.
Death questions us.  New grass
is the soft, shining hide draped

on the flesh of earth, and rock her bones.
Or this hole is just another hungry mouth
and earth the final carnivore who feeds

on flesh that’s only meat, gnaws bones to dust.
I stomp dirt down to keep the light at bay,
mount the impatient horse that today

carries my flesh through these hills
and ride away. 

for Paul Zarzyski and Liz Brummels

© 2008, JV Brummels, All rights reserved, from Book of Grass.  
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


 

Flat Earthers

Twenty-five hundred years
after Pythagoras took the measure
of the hypotenuse, a genetically engineered,
square-hipped Holstein in Wayne County
lets slip the milkers, mounts the ramp
out a rectangle of door, threads a cramped alley
past the standing stalls of a thousand of her sisters,
all while beneath her cloven hoofs
the ball of earth turns itself daily
and above the roof the round sun burns
hurling along an arcing trajectory
among an incalculable round number
of silent, disapproving stars.

© 2008, JV Brummels, All rights reserved, from Book of Grass.  
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 


 

Slant of Light

When the day’s push of west wind
gasps, then cyclones around,
this big bronc sets to spinning
between north and south and north,
and if my failing sight stretched
from the heights of this perch
I could swing the loop of my eye
a hundred miles to either interstate,
those running slabs, volcanic flow
smoothed and channeled to carry
a heavy world of steel the closest distance
between point and pointless. 

And if this bronc and wind don’t settle
soon I’ll leave this saddle,
this tanned skin of cow stretched
over rawhide, rawhide stretched
and shrunk over a tree
of what all trees are, and land
on earth that gives and gives
but won’t give much more than concrete
to the falling timber of this brittle body. 

These loess hills hold no rocks
to crack a skull nor scratch a pictograph 
to record this or any history,
nor rare earths for trolls to scrabble
out from beneath a grassroot hide,
nor press of the long dead into oil or coal,
and if we melt down here
and are not found we will be
survived only by buttons
and a half-dozen brass conchos.

But if these chaps flap, the wind
turns and the bronc blows even harder,
I might fly away and save my skin
since skin is what I care for,
my own, and the second skin
that I cover with my skin
when I get lucky,
and the grass of earth cattle skin off
each time the earth loops around
the sun the way I’m spinning
from west to east to west
so that in the long light breaking
beneath the skyline clouds
I spin from sundown to sunrise
to sundown, each quick day an aging,
until I grow long in tooth
and the straight line of my spine
curves like a question within a cloud
of fine hoof-raised dust.

Rising day and falling night,
the bronc and I cut and re-cut
the turning light
in our three-dimensional shapes
this way and that and back,
tie hard and fast to the wind
long as we blow.  No matter
our other sins, I know
that pounding hoof nor falling man
will leave no worse than they have lived
light on the land.  

© 2008, JV Brummels, All rights reserved, from Book of Grass.  
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Books

Among JV Brummels' publications:

 

Poetry collections

  Book of Grass (2008). Read the foreword by William Kloefkorn below. Available for $14 postpaid from www.loganhousepress.com, Amazon, and by mail: Logan House, Route 1, Box 154, Winside, NE  68790 

Cheyenne Line (The Backwaters Press, 2001)  Find information at the publisher's web site and at Amazon

Sunday’s Child (Basfal Books, 1994)  Find information at Amazon and other booksellers

614 Pearl (Abattoir Editions, 1982)  Out of print; find information at Amazon and from other used booksellers

 


Novel

  Deus Ex Machina  (Spectra, 1989) Find information at Amazon
 

 

Essays

  On Common Ground: William Kloefkorn, Ted Kooser, Greg Kuzma, and Don Welch (Sandhills Press, 1983), edited by Mark Sanders & JV Brummels
 

 


Book of Grass, foreword by William Kloefkorn

 

These new poems reveal Jim Brummels at his best, and that is damned good indeed. They are at times bawdy, at times humorous, at times philosophical, but always refreshingly well-sustained. Time and again they suggest that the poet understands and accepts that animal and human existence often parallel each other, each adjusting, adapting, doing whatever must be done to sustain its life. I’d say that at heart Brummels is a rancher, and he is; but at heart he is also a gypsy who cannot resist the urge to go beyond that place he has sunk his roots so deeply into—“to find where / in the journey / the adventure is.” And I’d add that he is a clear-eyed realist, and a teacher, one who lives not only in the classroom and on the land, but who is likewise of them. Alongside his students he is a learner, and the boots he wears more often than not have manure on them. His language derives from both the muck and the sweet clover he walks through. Mare heat. Milk-mild. Pigeyes. Wracked cowlot fences. When the drought finally breaks, he stands outside tasting the rain: “My tongue swelled with it, / and my lips moved as if to nurse.” And finally, at heart, Brummels is all heart, which means that in this “dense history of evolution” he does not neglect or forget those friends who suddenly disappear into the timeless maw of death. “I stand in weather atop my world. / The moon showers me with generous light. / In the distance the city my friend left behind / sends its industrial glare into the sky.” The friend is quietly and eloquently remembered. He is one of many stories of grass, one who has sprouted and grown and turned from green to brown and, when the time seemed right, reappeared, thanks to a poet who cares enough to make the miracle happen.
 

find order information above

 

 


Contacting JV Brummels

 


 

JV Brummels
Logan House
Route 1 Box 154
Winside, Nebraska 68790
402-286-4891

www.loganhousepress.com
jv@loganhousepress.com

 

 

 

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