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New Mexico
About Karen Campbell





The Spanish called her Magdalena
For she sings and flows with tears.
She has flowed from Sangre to sangre
With the pain of dry and dusty years.

In her rapids weave the story,
In her waters flow the blood,
Of a race of red faced warriors
That claim their roots in her mud.

The Spanish also called her fortune
For she has borne both wealth and trade.
Yet they should have named her fate
For every soul that is within her laid.

Long ago, she watered the great buffalo.
Indians, Spanish, French haunt her banks.
She has guided many a prairie schooner.
By her have rested many army ranks.

Yet surely the saddest of her stories
Lies with the first of her many guests.
Truly men of the earth, Great Spirit lovers
Upon her banks they formed their quests.

Yet red men, earth men, follow their mother
They will erode under a constant white rain,
An acid rain that destroyed the great buffalo
And left their brown hides like scars on the plain.

The Comanche, the Apache, the Kiowa,
Each tribe under her were brothers.
But savage and cruel is the white man’s rule,
Killing the warriors, her children, their mothers.

Herds as vast as those of the past buffalo
Then came in the form of cattle and horses,
And upon the banks and deep in her valleys
Towns then grew where the Canadian courses.

None heard her weeping when wire cut her.
None saw her bleeding between the hills.
They, like a wild horse, tried to tame her,
Conquer and contain where the water spills.

Now double damned rests her spirit,
Pooled together behind the mud and stone.
No more shall she sing through the night.
Now her dear valleys are dry as the bone.

The Spanish called her Magdelana
For she sings and flows with tears.
She has flowed from Sangre to sangre
With the pain of dry and dusty years.

© 2015, Karen Campbell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


Karen comments: I grew up around the Canadian River, actually right in the valley, at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. My parents worked in that program for many years. I was obsessed and in love with the river. It always saddened me to see that she was barely more than a trickle after they dammed her to form Lake Buchanan north of Borger. I know such actions are necessary to support life in the more arid regions around Amarillo but it still hurt. I loved seeing the beautiful cottonwoods turn to gold every autumn around her banks. I would ride to the top of a mesa and survey the scene; it was breathtaking. That being said, I got the idea to write a poem about the river, one that is so vital for many in the panhandle of Texas.

My research showed me that when the area was first explored by the Spanish, they named her Magdalena, after Mary Magdalene from the Bible. The word Magdalene in Spanish means specifically of or from tears. I loved that image, especially as applied to a river, named for the tears of a saint. Other settlers would later call the river La Fortuna, or river of fortune; this plays in as well. The source of the Canadian is also in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, or blood of Christ. The more research I did of course the more I found about the often bloody history of the river, about the Native American tribes who died on her banks, the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa who lived there. The idea of sangre to sangre, from blood to blood, from source to violence appealed to me too. I took this information and the more commonly known history of the buffalo hunters, various settlers (including French fur traders), ranching, the enclosure movement involving fencing, and the eventual damming of the river as my theme. Most of my research I found on various Texas historical websites.



Dancing in Blue

My life wasn't blue always. I've lived in brown and green.
But a horse the color of my soul, a blue one, long and lean,
Colored my days and brightened my nights. In his memory do I live,
mostly because he danced in blue and gave all he had to give.
Dancing in blue, prancing in blue, the rhythm thrills me of late.
Dancing in blue, prancing in blue, to the rhythm of his gait.
We had four left feet, blue shoes, blue jeans, blue songs, blue in our ears.
Blue was the color we danced in; we danced blue for years.
And so we waltzed and we tripped, and the blue went on and on,
Blue in our eyes, blue in our hearts, in blue we went two then one.
Dancing in blue, prancing in blue, the rhythm and the rate.
Dancing in blue, prancing in blue, to the rhythm of his gait.
But rhythms aren't always steady: they skip, they stop, they change.
And dancers stumble, falter, fall, can't dance in every range.
He died, you know, my dancer, his blue hide was his bier.
So blue was the color I mourned in, the color of my tears.
Dancing in blue, dancing in blue, forever will I wait
To dance in blue, prance in blue. I'm listening for his gait.

© 2015, Karen Campbell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


Karen comments: I was inspired to write “Dancing in Blue” about a horse I owned in high school. His registered name was Azul Dancer. My parents bought him for me as a project when I was 16 and I ended up taking him to college with me. He was an incredibly gentle horse and the first horse I trained myself to barrel race. He did tons of things with me from doing jumping classes to barrel racing to roping and working cattle. He was a one of a kind, a true bombproof animal. I miss him every day. I know many of us identify with special horses in our lives especially our firsts. I shared a horse with my sister before I had this one who was also special, but this was the first one I owned as a young horse and trained myself (though I did not break him). When I was between degrees, I left him out at my family’s ranch in New Mexico where he ended up in an accident where some cattle ran through the fence and he got tangled in the mess they made. He was still a reasonably young horse and his passing broke my heart. I wrote this poem a few years later to commemorate what he meant to me and the feelings that many women have for a special horse in their lives.




  About Karen Campbell
     provided 2015

I was raised in a family that ranches primarily in New Mexico, just east of Tucumcari, by San Jon. We call our operation Brown Farms. Our family primarily runs black and red Saler cattle and has raised heifer bulls. I grew up visiting this ranch most Spring and Fall works and still do as much as possible. This is where my twin sister and I first learned to ride. As we got older, my parents began working at children's homes, first the Baptist Children's Home in Portales, then Girlstown near Whiteface, Texas, and later Cal Farley's Boys Ranch outside of Amarillo in high school. After my dad started working at Boys Ranch, my sister and I started working at the horse barn there. We spent our days caring for horses, working cattle, teaching trail rides and lessons, and rodeoing. I loved both forms of ranching, the type that produces for the sake of a family and the type that produces more mature young adults. While at Cal Farley's, my sister and I both participated in the Cowboy Poetry Team. We attended a number of poetry gatherings and had a blast. After I went on to college, I continued to write but performed relatively little.

My love of literature and poetry would lead me to major in English in college. In 2012 I finally finished a goal I had wanted since I was 14 and at Cal Farley's, my Ph.D. in literature. I still write poetry but I also teach it, both in terms of composition and analysis, as a professor at a rural community college in the Texoma area. It has been a life long love of mine. I still enjoy the western lifestyle as well. I now ride and breed performance horses with my husband and his family. I still help with my family's ranch as well.




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