Life is mostly scars and souvenirs.
Mark David Manders
Indian Paintbrushes

There are flowers
flickers of orange fire
dancing on green fields under Oklahoma skies.
Like weeds they hold to the worst terrain
and spread everywhere.

They beautify discarded Coors cans
and swarm beneath barbed wire
filling empty pastures
where Choctaw and Chickasaw long ago hunted.

Once as a boy, I worked the roots of a
loose from the rocky soil across the gravel road
running in front of my house
and brought them to my mother's flower garden.

With all the care a ten year old could muster,
I replanted the fire
between petunias and four o'clocks.
There, among the tame flowers      
soon          they perished.

“They grow wild; that's just how some things
are meant to be,” Momma said
as she watered her carefully tended beds
in the summer heat.

But always
before she'd go back inside,
she'd walk to the edge of our yard
and look across the dusty road
at the red-orange blanket
covering the rough ground
burning in the last light of day.
The poem "Indian
Painbrushes" first appears
Native Son  and again in
I Come from Cowboys...
and Indians
. It was a
second place winner in the
2007 Grandmother Earth
National Environmental
Writing Awards.
"October Rising" was another
second place poem in a national
contest. It placed in the 2008
National Federation of State Poetry
Societies contest - The Texas
sponsored category. It is published
I Come from Cowboys...

The poem evolved from my drive to
Colbert and seeing dozens of big
round hay bales in a pasture just
about sunup.

Momma with her
flowers at our house in
Durant, Oklahoma 1984
October Rising

Driving on southbound lanes of concrete
I see October rising.
A early morning sun lights hay bale buffalos
gathering across eastern pasture land
as morning breaks the grey.

Summer is leaving
green strewn on both sides of the highway,
and wild flowers have rooted the season
to this bit of Oklahoma
where mythic beasts breathe the past
in vapors of dawn.

I would have those dark round humps
sprout sturdy legs
and the short curved horns of bison,
have them snort and paw the earth
before rolling in a herd of shaggy thunder
ripping out metal posts and barbed wire;

I would have them explode
in a surging wave of bound grass
and baled ghosts from another century
a hundred thousand hooves beating
tractored rows and black asphalt
back into this southern edge of the plains.

And from the back of my quick-footed pony
hawk feathers braided in his mane,
I would watch them stampede
across disappeared ribbons of cement
and feel the earth tremble
beneath my chasing horse.

The poem, "Night" won first place in the long
unrhymed poetry category of the 2008
Oklahoma Writer's Federation, Inc contest.

It also is published in
I Come from Cowboys...


I am born into the night
with a flickering tongue of lightning
miles away
and thunder so low it almost goes unnoticed
behind the distant scent of rain.

The air around me remains unlit
by the fire of yellow bulbs. I have chosen
the dark instead,
letting it wrap me in its music
no guitar’s acoustic rhythmic strumming,
only tree frogs and a coyote singing
a dying summer.

Drifting among the elms, a breeze finds me,
touches my skin and moves on
like a lover slipping into shadows
beneath pitch black September leaves,
still than the sky they press against.

I wish to be assimilated into the living blood
of night,
inhaled with ink black air
and breathed across the sky,
my thoughts dripping from branches,
my eyes opening in the face of a great
horned owl
about to fly.
Finally one of the poems I read at the 2010  Woody Guthrie
Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma. "Eastside Boys, We Ran"
Eastside Boys, We Ran

(For William Airington, Jackie, Jimmy and Mike Bush,
Larry Dozier, Charles Guyer, Weldon Harris,
Gary Sheffield, Don Tyree, Joe Dean and Slim Whitley)

Eastside boys, we ran;
we ran straight up Northeast Second
to Mississippi to Texas to Alabama and Arkansas,
over the Santa Fe tracks to the stop sign on East Main.
We ran down gravel roads
that cut across our neighborhood, and past the old cemetery.
We rolled under barbed wire into pasture grass
with no roads to follow
we ran.

We ran from George Washington Elementary
to Roy Child’s Grocery Store;
we ran the bases and then back home
to widowed mothers and to moms who made us cookies
to fathers who drank too much,
and dads who taught us how to cast a fishing line
we ran.

We ran from poverty that stalked its prey
on our side of the tracks,
from pasts that trapped us in seines like minnows
in a shallow creek.
We ran from ghosts and self-fulfilling prophecies,
but never once from a fight.

We ran into the record books,
and we ran into the law,
to God, the Army and college
     we ran into the world and into our lives;
we ran.

Eastside boys, we ran
some of us are running still,
running out of time and out of space,
but running all the same into the fire and out of the flames
of a long-gone neighborhood.
We run
we run
     faster than the rest.