Home 5 Poems

Each Hill Country Alliance board meeting opens with a poem. Poetry helps to create sense of calm and mindfulness. It restores purpose and it opens up new sources of ideas, energy and creativity. We share our poems with you and encourage you to also share with others.

Perhaps… – Shu Ting

Perhaps these thoughts of ours
will never find an audience
Perhaps the mistaken road
will end in a mistake
Perhaps the lamps we light one at a time
will be blown out, one at a time
Perhaps the candles of our lives will gutter out
without lighting a fire to warm us.

Perhaps when all the tears have been shed
the earth will be more fertile
Perhaps when we sing praises to the sun
the sun will praise us in return
Perhaps these heavy burdens
will strengthen our philosophy
Perhaps when we weep for those in misery
we must be silent about miseries of our own

Because of our irresistible sense of mission
We have no choice

The Sandhills – 1947 Linda Hogan

The language of cranes
we once were told
is the wind. The wind
is their method,
their current, the translated story
of life they write across the sky.
Millions of years
they have blown here
on ancestral longing,
their wings of wide arrival,
necks long, legs stretched out
above strands of earth
where they arrive
with the shine of water,
stories, interminable
language of exchanges
descended from the sky
and then they stand,
earth made only of crane
from bank to bank of the river
as far as you can see
the ancient story made new.

Seven Hundred Springs – J.E. Grinstead, 1916

Sometime, in ages long forgot,
The pale snow lay, above the timberline,
Upon the crest of mountains far away
To Glint the cold moon’s slow decline.
And Nature said,’what shall I do with this,
When e’er the Sun bends his hot rays
Athwart the plain, and sunbeams kiss
These cold and icy ways?
Then Nature shook the world and spoke,
Her angry banners all unfurled,
The staybolts of the universe were broken,
And seams rent in the underworld,
And lo! The sun fell on the snowing peaks,
While icy streams ran down a mountainside
”The bottom of the lakes began to leak,
And water through the rocky caves to glide.
Anon, the stream a devious way had run,
Since melted from a snow drift cold and pale
By burning, scorching, western sun
It broke the lock of rockbound jail,
It gushed with joy, to see the glinting light,
It warbled as a songbird sings,
It made a river with its might,
Below the Seven Hundred Springs.

Liquid History – Dan Caudle 2012 ©

Texas rivers are our liquid history – Chronicles of the past,
Barometers of the present,
Prophets of the future.

Thousands of insignificant tributaries
Contribute their relatively minor aqueous deposits
Into rills, which become rivulets, then creeks
That finally feed into larger watercourses to become rivers –
Major arteries conveying the essential element of life across the land
As they wind their way toward the Gulf.

From the dawn of time rivers have been the focal point for settlement –
The location of cities and towns, the preferred sites for factories and commerce.
They have long been the basis for land ownership, boundary disputes, wars, and lawsuits
Between people, states, and nations, each seeking control of the water
To use for their own purposes and to gain advantage over others.

Our waters have been governed by the laws of six different nations.
They have seen once dominant civilizations and governments disappear entirely
They have witnessed the overnight establishment of bustling communities
Only to see them vanish almost as suddenly as they appeared.
They were the lifeblood of remote frontier outposts
Which have now become densely populated metropolitan cities.

For eons they weaved their way through the countryside
Unencumbered as they charted their own course.
They conformed only to the topography of the land
And yielded only to the laws of nature.

They ran wild and free – sometimes as raging torrents
That might cut a new channel
Leaving an oxbow vestige of the old watercourse.
Other times they just meandered
Lazily and aimlessly across the landscape.

Today the rivers have been subdued and tamed.
No longer are they unconfined and natural.
Now they are controlled and manipulated
To fit the needs and wishes of modern civilization.

Some rarely flow and consist mostly of occasional pools of water.
They run only when torrential downpours occur.
Then they become a thick, soupy, reddish brown mix of water, debris, and soil,
As they churn and stir and overflow their banks,
Destroying lives and structures that encroached into the floodplain.

Many of the rivers have been altered – straightened, narrowed, deepened –
By engineers, bulldozers, draglines, government planners – all with good intentions.
They have been restricted by artificial barriers,
Civilized by dams, weirs, locks, berms, and levees,
To control their flow and their route.

Rivers and streams are harnessed and contained in earthen reservoirs
To supply the voracious demands of urban landscapes – lush lawns and golf courses,
Water parks and swimming pools, industries, and thirsty city dwellers.
They say there is a desperate need to construct more dams and reservoirs for the future!
More dams to further diminish the rivers and creeks?

Our legacy will not only be recorded in journals,
It is there in the water for all to see.
The handwriting is not on the wall
Or in the pages of a book.
It is in the river.

Texas rivers are our liquid history –
Chronicles of the past,
Barometers of the present,
Prophets of the future.

Golden Goose – Shel Silverstein

Yes, we cooked that fat ol’ goose.
You say we were insane
Because she laid those golden eggs,
But you don’t know the pain
Of trying to boil a golden egg
While you just starve away.
If she’d laid ordinary eggs
She’d be with us today.

I Worried – Mary Oliver

I worried a lot.

Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow in the right direction,
will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not how shall I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it and I am,
well, hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, am I going to get
rheumatism,lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And gave it up.

And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.

Agape – the Unconditional Love of Planet, People, Place – Bob Mud McMahon

At Jacob’s well
the eye of Mother Earth
is serene
on a warm fall day.
The pupil is a slow turtle
and there is a smile
of lucid fish
rising from the heart
of the waters
of our goddess planet.
The rocks here
have rumbled
then accepted their place
sculpted by nature’s embrace.
They rest on each other
resembling guardian
species of fish,
dolphin, whale and stone.
There are siren songs
inside the guardians
and the effervescence
of the spring water
is composed of bubbles
of memories
of divine children
splashing with laughter.
An Indian tribe of love
passes through time
at Jacob’s Well.
Strangers give wildflowers
to each other’s souls,
stilled for a while
in the eye of the vortex
by the wholeness of earth.
A grain slips
expanding the smile
of the stone fish,
another slips
from the eye
etching a tear.
The grains make ripples
in the pool
as a feather glides by
like a frightened
I am agape
with agape.
the well
of no wish
with agape.
All is well
at Jacob’s well.

From the Tao Te Ching (Translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.

Am I Not Among the Early Risers – Mary Oliver

Am I not among the early risers
and the long-distance walkers?

Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider
the perfection of the morning star
above the peaks of the houses, and the crowns of the trees
blue in the first light?
Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though
sheets of water flowed over them
though it is only wind, that common thing
free to everyone, and everything?

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be
worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,
to gather blueberries,
thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

What will ambition do for me that the fox, appearing suddenly
at the top of the field,
her eyes sharp and confident as she stared into mine,
has not already done?

What countries, what visitations,
what pomp
would satisfy me as thoroughly as Blackwater Woods
on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Here is an amazement — once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace — the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

Water – Wendell Berry

I was born in a drought year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

Early Light – Autumn, 4S River Ranch

The owners have gone mad,
heading to Houston for the weekend.
leaving me their sanctuary,
the foreman, Antonio, is tucked among his espousa
and ninas. Mano just now raises the alarm,
barking away an invading flick of Whitetails.
A Great Blue Heron is startled
off his night roost, swooping low
over the Blanco in silent winged reflection.
A secret rooster does his daily dawn duty.
Longhorn graze in river mist relief.
I choose to ignore overflights and smart bombs,
scanning the pinking sky for black and orange
monarchs that slipped across the north border,
avoiding trigger-nervous guards,
sailing south on wings and winds
along milkweed routes; never taught.
The river and I talk to ourselves
about nothing of consequence,
yet this before-sunrise
somehow makes sense
in a world making none.

Four Seasons – Autumn, 4S River Ranch

Dawn: trees wreathed in mist
of near-freeze rising from the river
are beginning to blossom
into muted gold as the sun lifts itself
from slumber, spraying the dew-heavy grass
to a carpet of soft diamonds. Longhorns nod
their bow-limbed heads and move to water
hidden in its own small blossom of fog.
There will never be such a morning.
But then the sun, trees, cattle,
now laced with shadow deer will settle
in a blaze of last light which will set
the stage for a new adaptation of a play
that has run long before the Blanco River
blossomed out of limestone gardens.


Rosie – Bob Ayres
simple as any injection. . . she’ll be gone like “that”

Gone: cold mornings we mounted escarpments,
rode up the hollows, flushing fawns and foxes;
halting, she’d paw the water, rippling
our reflection with her hoof each crossing;
reticent on rocky slopes, a tendency to stumble
inherited from her mother, along with a fine
intelligence where cows were concerned,
alert, and quick to make the cut or turn;
ingenious, too, opening gates–I’d unsaddle latch
the gate between us, and she’d be out again, like “that.”

The Orchard – Bob Ayres

I went to the orchard where no one for years has planted or pruned,
Where wild-suckering limbs break under the weight of the crowding fruit,
and hackberries grow choking the younger trees;
Where the gaps mature trees filled are the gaps between a poor woman’s teeth,
and the ground turned by the harrow when moisture was a thing remembered
is the cracked lip of a neglected child,
And the yellow weeds waist high the hair the dead keep growing.”

And though from a distance the leaves dull-green suggested the voices of those
who summers gathered each fruit in its turn—
the tart plums, the warm peaches, the ruddy pears (remarking
how unusually sweet this year the grapes sprawling over the fence)—
Up close they crackled, a brush fire spreading from where for days
it smoldered under the scorched grass.

I went to the one tree which bears every year without fail its pears, the birds
flapping their hollow bones at my approach.
Through the leaves a small bat uncurled like a wisp of smoke.
And for every pear I gathered there was one too ripe, and one the birds had pecked,
and one full of black weevils, and a dozen the masked raccoon
knocked to the ground,
Fruit once firm and good, given to the boot’s press,
And hornets rising each above a rotten globe.

Downpour – Robert Ayres

Had you come with me this morning, walking
first the pecan bottoms along the creek,
then the ridge upstream from where it bends, the sky
scrubbed clean by last night’s unpredicted storm,
as though someone had suddenly pitched a bucket of water
through the open window—each web glistening so,
the sodden pasture visibly relieved—
you would have seen the turkey hen, disheveled,
sopping wet, cautiously threading her young brood
through patches of blue stem, blooming broom weed;
and drenched in sunlight, the painted bunting perched
on the upended cedar stump, little rainbow,
bright promise from a distant land. Could he
taunt or tease your dark-hiding heart to song?

What I Love and Long to Hear – Robert Ayres

Mourning doves through the lifting fog,
grasshoppers in the ready hay,

a mare’s shod hooves on the caliche trail,
the cottonwood’s sporadic applause,

unexpected as a large-mouthed bass bursting
the pond’s illusion of dawn, of dusk.

Hill Country Galleria – Robert Ayres

The kestrel tilting on the wire
surveys the hundred-acre site
that just last winter was the field
that fueled her lilting falcon flight.

She watches rock saws slicing trenches
and dozers climbing piles of dirt
three stories high, toppling gigantic
boulders—each a buffalo’s girth.

The grass is gone.
(Flocks of sparrows.)
Soil, gone.
(Mice, their burrows.)

She’s living on the brink
of locally extinct.

Private Reserves – Robert Ayres

In the limestone pump house of an abandoned well
in the middle of the ranch house yard, on shelves
and stacked in cardboard boxes on the floor,
are quarts of pickled Montopolis peaches, pints
of Douglas pear preserves, odd-sized jars of jelly
made from Mustang grapes, and gallons of juice
from the Mexican plums gathered along the creek,
the labels rendered illegible by the syrup that seeps
through paraffin, sticking lid to jar, jar to shelf
(a date here, ’58, or the contents in longhand, plums),
the preserves grown darker and sweeter, inedible, left
because preserves don’t ever go bad, left
for the dead who put them by, who might one day
come looking for peach preserves to spread thickly
on slices of yeast-bread from the smokehouse near Blanco,
deserted twenty years ago at least.

Dry Spell – Bob Ayres

A dwindling creek. Pools with muddy edges.
The heron by day, and the coon by night, polish off
the fishes, scavenge freshwater clams.

Tracks harden. Algae turns to dust.
Trees are shedding early without the usual hoopla.
The birds gone south. Gone elsewhere anyway.

The Seven Of Pentacles – Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us

interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

We either get it… or we don’t – Bill Neiman

It’s hard times for the leavers and the takers.
The drought makes it clear…
If you’ll leave enough time to look.

Bumping up against a galvanized guardrail;
each side saying,
“Ya either get it… or ya don’t.”

Tanked economy and failing democracy
just add to the drama.
But if you live on the land…
It’s the drought that gets in your face.

Once I knew a caged circus gorilla that became a teacher.
He taught students about the leavers and the takers
and how to see the long-term results of their actions.

Many lessons are clearly in view.

A couple short centuries of global trading beaver furs
…if only for the jingle
and the thrill of looking really hip.
We civilized people ‘bout took them all.

Few left behind.
So few leavers.
And so many, many takers. ” Had we only seen the value in all those beaver dams.”
Vast millions of little lakes pooling water,
Making wetlands and meadows and forest edges
along every creek and river across the country.

If only we had all that clean cool water now.
Why heck, I’d have the greenest lawn on the block, again. ” The drums beat.”
The humans march on, day after day.
Busily we build more guardrails.
We’re all corralled into herds now.

We either get it …or we don’t.

Water Sparks – Damian Priour

Water sparks my imagination, my memories. Water sparks my
ability to go places that only exist in my imagination.
Water sparks my mastery at getting lost in the shower.
Water sparks my desire to travel, to get naked, to comb
the beach, to make art, to be free, to watch every
raindrop, to love, to make love, to create, to enjoy
bliss, to worship, to sin, to not, to drink, to know the
limits of planning, to be prepared for the prepared, to
know the true value of being unprepared, to know friends,
to love friends, to ache for the unfortunate, to be
spontaneous, to understand the value of family, to make
mistakes, to sit still, to dance, to be confused, to have
faith, to have doubts, to make wishes, to be foolish, to
do the right thing, to separate the clear from the fuzzy,
to breathe, to know life is good most of the time, to
know the importance of a positive outlook, to tell the
truth, to see through the naive, to ache for my children,
to know my parents ached too, to be happy for the success
of others. Water sparks perseverance. Water sparks
understanding the importance of a clean mind and the
understanding that having a dirty body is ok some of the
time. Water sparks my desire to take huge leaps but
understand that baby steps are sometimes necessary. Water
sparks the clarity of paradox, the clarity of knowing
which dreams to follow, the clarity of knowing old souls,
the clarity of listening. Water sparks the knowledge that
helping others helps yourself more. Water sparks my
appreciation that I knew very little when I was. Water
teaches. Water sparks the lucky, the poor, the pretty and
the not so. Water cleans. Water nourishes. Water kills.
Water saves. Water sparks wonder at life. Water sparks
curiosity about death. Water sparks.

Calling the Rain Spirit – Red Hawk

(an excerpt from the book, “The Sioux Dog Dance: shunk ah weh”)

My daughters and I once drove past a spot
where trees and grass were on fire.
We stopped: 100 degrees, no clouds,
nothing to fight the fire with.
Rain Drop was 5 then. She said she would
call the Rain Spirit and she did.

Eyes closed she sat there
In the back seat, legs crossed
And she fell right over.
She lay totally still.
Little Wind and I watched
Not sure what to do.

A few minutes and she sat up.
A few more and the rain came in sheets
So heavy cars pulled over and stopped.
The fire was put out at once.
I saw it happen. It was child’s play.
I do not expect you to believe it;

I only tell you this because I saw
The price we paid
in trading trust for reason.
Rain Drop knew exactly what to do
and she did it. I saw it.
I do not expect you to believe it.

An Excerpt from The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel

The story hasn’t, however, ended happily. Particularly in
the Global South, governments have encouraged their
citizens to wait for rights to be delivered while the
government addresses the concerns of each citizen in turn.
** In many cases, this simultaneous call for individual
patience has been facilitated by elite NGOs with the
effect of postponing immediate, collective and democratic
action. The command to be patient implies that in time we
will, one by one, reach the Promised Land. History
suggests, however, that asking for patience serves an
altogether different purpose. It’s a way of demobilizing
popular demands, and of letting governments wriggle out
of providing anything at all, while suggesting that the
cardinal duty of being a citizen is to wait with an
outstretched hand. In other words, rights can be
understood as a bedtime story, in which the future ends
happily ever after, if only we allow the profit-driven
markets to continue their reign undisturbed, and agree
that the most fundamental right of all is that of
individuals to private property.

The Giver – Julie Lewey

Rolling down from the canyons of blue skies
Growing strong as each hill begins to cry
My patrons find their way to my banks
On bended knee they suck the life I freely give with no thanks
I give to life unseen beneath this hallowed ground
No thirsty plant nor animal shall go unquenched so long as I may run on down
I give more than will ever be brought back
But once I am dry this earth will crack
So care for me, hear my call
For I am but the river, the giver of all

How I Go to the Woods – Mary Oliver

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone,with not a single friend,

for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying,
as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune
as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned.
I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.