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.

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

The Coast of Oklahoma

Outside my western window,
a grey day presses against the pane,
remnant of a fading hurricane
       flown inland,
to die on the coast of Oklahoma.

Scanning the receding mist,
I hold a lawman’s star in my left hand
a remnant of hard arms and a good man’s heart.
Your cowboy hat hangs
under rifles on a red cedar gun rack
       as if you might walk in
and put it on.

But August has slipped away while I wasn’t
blue eyes beneath a tilted brim.

So, I search the ground below the weeping glass,
       seeking the scuffs
of your well-worn heels on September dirt.

Where fathers walk
       sign is always left
and sometimes, only a tracker can read
those marks.

I need that trail now,
for without a path to follow,
life can be a pursuit of pieces, scattered in a storm
       a whisper of dry leaves
                 whirling away
                           before the rain begins to fall.

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.

"The Coast of Oklahoma" was written for my father;
it won Songs of Eretz 2017 Poetry contest $1000
prize. Songs of Eretz is a great poetry site. I highly
recommend it.

The poem "Renegade" first appeared in Red   
 River Review and was nominated for a
 Pushcart Prize in 2016


November rides in
from the east
on a blood  bay mare
        iron spur rowels rattling,
the black brim of his Stetson,
pulled low
above hard, hazel, autumn eyes.

Behind him,
the sky is wearing bones
        a line of leafless sycamores
etched against the greying day
in a time of outlaws.

Well aware
        the cold is on his heels,
he watches as a rising crescent moon
lifts the black
above not yet winter hills,
cocks the hammer back
        and buries the world
                  under collapsing stars.
"Fly Fishing on Blue River" was written for my big
brother. It was a runner up in the 2016 Songs of
Eretz Awards and first appeared in Oklahoma
Today Magazine.

Fly Fishing on Blue River
             (For Floyd)

Stars and stones
mark the tattered edges of the world.
Two brown trout
heavy in your wicker creel,
the air is slowly cooling.
        But you’ve moved on,
wading into the sleepy current
mending the line
as the day falls,
fire, lighting on dark ripples
        like a dance of dragonflies
burning Blue River,
black and yellow,
your fly rod whipping a whispered cast
        into the setting sun
haloing your silhouette,
against the coming of night on the water.
        One more cast,
a hand-tied lure arcs out
from the rocks
through scattered sunset shadows
        and is gone.