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Colorado Springs, Colorado
About Mike Stevens




A Rattlesnake's Lament
by Camp Creek Frank Diamond

I tasted a mouse on the cool morning air
And slithered right up to the edge of its lair.
Forestalling objections, I gave it a shot
Of sedative potion right there on the spot.

Digestion's an art form and I did it right,
Despite being tuckered from hunting all night.
To make for a smooth alimentary run
I searched out a sweet spot to snooze in the sun.

I couldn't sleep there on the side of that knoll:
My body shape's round and is likely to roll,
So downward I slid to a spot that was level
And readied myself for a rattlesnake's revel.

A boot heel awoke me with jangling spur;
My head and my tail snapped upright in a blur.
I coiled myself for a desperate lunge
And pointed my fangs to a venomous plunge!

That cowboy leapt up with a yell of pure fright
And traveled the next twenty feet in a flight.
He stopped where he landed and turned 'round to stare,
Then reached for a pistol that
whew!wasn't there.

We eyeballed each other with fear in our gaze
Then both of us turned and we went our own ways.
So this is the gist of my hissing lament:
I'll nevermore sleep on a slab of cement.

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

Mike told us: This poem is based on an incident that happened to me while walking in Garden of the Gods and was due entirely to my own carelessness in placing my feet. When I finally returned to earth and looked back at the other party, it suddenly occurred to me that he had been as frightened by our encounter as I had been.



Old Ropin' Jack
by Camp Creek Frank Diamond

This here is the story of Old Ropin' Jack,
Who rode with our outfit a month or so back.
While Jack was no expert with pistol or rifle
His skill with manila was more than a trifle.

He'd lasso three cattle with one giant loop,
As long as they stood in a fairly close group.
A stampeding longhorn soon learned who was boss.
He'd flip it right over with his speedy toss.

Now Jack was a man with no evil intent,
But we were amazed by the tricks he'd invent.
His one guilty pleasure was startling folks,
'Cause Jack was a cowboy who did like his jokes.

Like once when he opened a rattlesnake den
And lasso'd a big 'un then closed it again.
He rode through our camp with that snake swingin' wide
Then laughed to himself as we all jumped aside.

And even more fun, though you had to be there,
Was one time last winter he brought back a bear.
That grizzly was ugly and in a bad mood,
And went on a rampage to grab all our food.

But last month I'm thinkin' that old Jack was drunk—
What else could have caused him to lasso a skunk?
You can't slip your rope off or give any slack
To black and white critters that shoot from the back.

So Jack laid his quirt on and rode off pell-mell,
Just stayin' one rope length ahead of the smell,
Though none of us noticed the way that he went
With eyes full of tears from the strength of the scent.

A month has gone by but we still sniff the air
In hopes that old Jack will be somewhere out there.
If anyone sees him please point out our path,
But also invite him—to first take a bath.

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

Mike told us: I have an old ranch rope that saw a lot of service before it came to me. I like to take it along to gatherings and such, and at the moment it's hanging on my bedpost waiting to be returned to its place on the wall. Sometimes I just like to have it in my hands, and sometimes I try to imagine who might have used it long ago.

Little Snow
by Camp Creek Frank Diamond

"A little snow means big snow," as the old ones used to say,
And from the sky some tiny flakes come drifting down our way.
Along the mountain skyline hangs a floating, curtained white,
While on the plains the distant hills are graying out of sight.

The long brown grasses bend before an icy northern blast,
And rushing clouds spread out to make a solid overcast.
The chill of winter slices through as inner urges form
To find a place that's sheltered from the power of the storm.

The wind proclaims its victory in rafter-shaking boasts
And drives the puffs of snow along like bitter, flying ghosts.
The night comes down to wrap us in a constant, howling blow,
And bury us beneath the drift...of tiny, little snow.

© 2006, Mike Stevens
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mike told us: Last December I spent a day alone with not much to do, while outside the first good snow in a long time turned everything white. That's when I remembered a saying about snow that somebody told me years ago. I don't know where it came from originally, but it's certainly true—especially during December here in the West.


Critique of Pure Reason
by Camp Creek Frank Diamond

"These college boys are useless things," opinioned Grouchy Ed,
"Experience is all you need to run a ranch," he said.
The coffee mugs were steaming hot in High Plains Truck Café
And all the men were gathered there to start their working day.

But Jimmy Brown came rushing by, his arms filled up with gear,
And clearly caught the barbed remark Ed meant for him to hear.
"Now Ed we've been through this," he said, "we've chased it all around.
It's true I've been to college but I think my mind is sound."

"What can they teach you", Ed replied, "except a Shakespeare play,
And how much money did you spend to waste your time away?"
"It is expensive," answered Jim, "but more than just poetics,
They taught me really useful things like breeding and genetics."

Ed took a sip and swirled his cup as though to stir the grounds,
Then pursed his lips and drew a breath with scornful sucking sounds.
"I need no puffed-up smartass who has fuzz upon his face
To come out here and try to tell me how to run my place."

The silence in the room grew large and settled all around,
As many of us looked away, but no one made a sound.
Then Jimmy said the strangest thing that I have heard him say,
While staring out the window to the four-lane far away.

"In Africa the lioness is huntress of the land
While lazy males contend with all to prove who's in command,
But sometimes will a lone female slip quietly aside
And take up with an outcast who is from another pride.

It makes no sense unless you count the things that can't be seen,
And reason that behavior can reside within the gene."
Then while we pondered on this tale that seemed a bit absurd
He stooped to pick his bundles up without another word.

"Now wait a minute, Jim," I said. "You can't just leave it there.
Don't think that we will let you go with questions in the air."
He smiled at me and wondered how the heck that I had been,
But as he shook my hand he glanced out to the road again.

"You know I had a film crew on my ranch a year ago.
They brought a famous actress there to whom I said hello.
Her staff was shocked as though it were an old-time movie scene:
A foolish lackey with no sense had spoken to the Queen."

I rolled my eyes with pity and I took him by the arm
And gave him some advice I hoped would keep him out of harm.
"Those actresses are beautiful, but cold as icy floes.
They won't give you the time of day, as everybody knows."

He broke into a happy grin and shook his curly head.
"She visits me from time to time, and we're in love," he said.
"She likes the windy silence and the sense of gentle peace,
She likes to work with her own hands and doesn't mind the grease."

"When winter turns to spring again we've got a wedding planned,
With lots of guests and even Press out there upon our land,
And you'll be in our nuptials and even Ed as well,
Provided that he does survive his current choking spell."

He turned around and left us there with jawbones hanging wide
Because a long black limousine had just pulled up outside,
And from it stepped a lovely sylph with figure full and slim,
Who got into his pickup truck and snuggled close to him.

Our breathing on the window cast a fog upon the sight
So I stepped back to say a word and tried to get it right.
"It goes to show there are some things that lie beyond our ken.
"I guess I'll have another cup...then get to work again."

© 2008, Mike Stevens
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mike told us: I read about an argument between some old-time philosophers, and their conflict immediately suggested a modern story. It took a while to work out the details, of course, but from the beginning I knew it had to take place
in a little cafe I know, out in a small town on the high plains, right next to the interstate...


The Bullwhip Artist

("...what is chiefly necessary is patience and daily practice for long, long years."—Guy de Maupassant, "The Artist")

As Bill the Bullwhip Artist and his target girl Jean
Worked honkytonks and county fairs and places in between,
They hid from all the world, while displaying deadly skill,
The passions that they kept inside by quiet force of will.

"That woman drives me crazy," Bill would tell the press and friends.
"She's mocked me far too many times to ever make amends.
But I can never get revenge in large or small degree,
Though you might think I often have the opportunity:

"For in our act she comes onstage as though she's in a trance
And, smiling, turns and sketches out a dreamy sort of dance
While dressed in lovely evening gown with matching silken sash.
And then, as viewers gasp in shock, I wrap her with my lash."

But Jean, behind his back, would say, "It's really just an act.
It looks and sounds quite painful but it doesn't hurt, in fact.
He's got a certain way to throw a bullwhip's leather coil
That makes it crack and yet caress as soft as baby oil.

"And though I tease and make him mad he can't break his routine:
The long, long years of practices have made him a machine.
He's like a thing of cogs and wheels that never stops or breaks,
That runs forever faultlessly and cannot make mistakes."

Then Bill, on overhearing that, would turn away and grin:
Their public story always worked to bring the patrons in.
That night he'd block distractions and the glaring lights above,
And focus on protecting her who was his secret love.

And Jean, on seeing that he'd heard, would also risk a smile:
She'd let him think his secret was a secret for a while.
That night she'd take her place onstage and play the story through
And never show by look or word how much she loved him too.

So Bill the Bullwhip Artist and his target girl Jean
Worked honkytonks and county fairs and places in between,
And hid from all the world, while displaying deadly skill,
The passions that they kept inside by quiet force of will.

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

Mike told us:
"I sometimes use a bullwhip in public performances, so I practice a lot to get it right, and that reminds me of a story I read years ago. But one day it occurred to me that the old story left something out."

Mike hints that the story he read years ago was "The Artist," by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). You can read the story here.



  About Mike Stevens:

I grew up in Michigan and got interested in poetry earlyeven winning a high school contestbut then other things, like war and marriage, soon grabbed my attention. After Vietnam I settled in Colorado and focused on earning a living and raising a family. In the last few years, however, I've rediscovered the joy in putting words into verse. My wife and I currently reside near Camp Creek on the Westside of Colorado Springs.



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