Sierra Nevada foothills, California
About Muriel Zeller
Recognized for her poem, "She Did Not Love Change"
She Did Not Love Change
In the cycles of change,
she loved the sameness.
She believed in constancy:
rocks, oaks, summer
salt on the tongue,
dust in a cow's wake,
hay, manure, chapped
hands, spring cold, pulling
stuck calves with a come-along,
riding bareback, burning brush,
bloody barbed wire,
an old Hereford bull named Triumph.
Past and future collapsed
into each moment she spent
on the ranch. She curled
into the womb of land,
was born, reborn,
brought her shame, had it vanish
into the ground's thrust
of green, into its strawing.
The land took on each hardship,
wore it down into dust.
God could not give her peace
like she found after she closed
the gate that opened onto the world.
But the world insists upon itself.
Love thins with a bloodline.
Language falls down.
The vernacular of land and time
is reinterpreted in subdivision lines.
She did not love change,
but change loved her,
as you know, to death.
© 2006, Muriel Zeller
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Muriel told us about her inspiration for the poem:
I wrote this poem, as well as many others, in response to my sense of loss when my parents began subdividing and selling my grandmother's ranch. Though the poem is dedicated to my grandmother (Tiny), I could just as easily have been writing about myself. Sometimes the connection with a piece of land, the reverential sense of place skips a generation or is subjugated to (dare I say it so baldly?) greed. The Sierra Nevada foothill community where I live was all grazing land and ranches only a generation ago. We now have Starbucks and Burger King. I am not naive. I understand there are social and economic pressures driving the growth in my area, but I am frightened by the lack of balance between stability and change. So I write poems and letters to the editor.
This poem came out of love, anger and longing. I worked on it for about a year, and, finally, gave up. I discovered it was all it was ever going to be.
We asked Muriel about writing cowboy poetry and she commented:
As to why I write cowboy poetry, quite simply, I don't. I write poetry that often has a rural setting, because I write out of my experience, and because I love the land and traditions of the West. If my poem is accepted as a cowboy poem, I am delighted. However, my first obligation is always to the poem, not its audience. The audience, and I always hope there is one, is secondary. Poetry is about discovery, getting to what we know but can't quite grasp. And if you ask me why cowboy poetry is important, I will tell you it is important because it is poetry.
You can email Muriel Zeller.
About Muriel Zeller
Previously, my poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including The Montserrat Review, Perihelion, Camas:The Nature of the West, Northridge Review, Plainsongs, Bliss, Manzanita: Poetry and Prose of the Mother Lode, and Slipstream. My work has been anthologized, most notably in Over This Soil: An Anthology of World Farm Poems (University of Iowa Press, 1998). I have published two chapbooks, Legacy (2001)and Red Harvest (Poet's Corner Press, 2002). I have received two Pushcart Prize nominations (2001, 2004), and my work has appeared on Verse Daily.
I am currently working on a chapbook with my friend and fellow poet, Catherine Webster, which focuses on the landscape of central California and the Sierras. In addition to writing poetry, I work parttime and am a member of an aspiring non-profit group called MyValleySprings.com, whose mission it is to promote responsible growth and development through public participation in community planning in order to preserve the quality of rural life in the greater Valley Springs, California area.
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