Wednesday 5 November 2014

5 Poems by Stephen Page

The Tattler 

Your tale is told.
Tell it again

Without your telling
Told again.

After the Rustler and the Horse Thief stopped losing head in lot number eight, clover-fat claves ate hunter free, but horse-shook cows exploded with gas. Your unmean mien and can-do smile electrified paddocks in twos and threes. Summer sun unwatered tanks, and mismanaged grass capitulates capacity. The fence that sent Hobble-Foot on bike, broke this week under hungry cow weight. The chickens that laid lay no more while uncounted lambs grill on Sunday. Your salary arrived late today, so your rubber check melts in your pocket. The rancid Post Maker humbly sat wringing his hat in his lap. Unscented fertilizer that you bagged stacked like shit under the barn. You think inchoately to spread by word something developed sometime before by the Silent Mechanic and the Talkative Salesman drinking mate under the octagon shed.

Casca and the Tattler

I long ago put on my battle gear,
And now it is hard to take it off.

I run across pastures with my sword
Raised, looking for someone to decapitate.

After you tattled the tale of the Horse Thief,
Your saddled numbers did not mesh,

And after we fired the Cattle Rustler
Your calving measures shortened.

Why do you have a premade excuse
For every task incompleted;

Why can’t you finish cutting the lawn,
Nor completely paint the barn;

Why are the pastures not divided,
And the cows passing through canals?

I sliced your tongue off in mid-sentence
And ripped your lips from your cheeks,

And yet you have the tears to rust
The talisman from my armor.

The King and I are a lot like
Macbeth standing over the servants:

“Who do I have to report to now,
When my position is uncertain?”

How do you change from war to life:
Do you just let things go?

Maybe they should stop giving medals:
Look what happened to Douglas MacArthur.

The Tattler’s Reindoctrination 

In our hebdomadal meetings I will teach you
How to nail a cadaver to a count post:
Through the eye socket picked clean by vultures;

How to blue-bread mold tuberculars,
And chart them for the Horseback Vet;
How to lift cement blocks with one finger,

Burn urea bags after it rains,
Sell soy seed at a corn bazaar,
Hang hunters by their watch chains.

Everyday I work with you
I find the less you want to learn:
I need to return to my teaching.

You tire me.  I wish not to see you;
I wish to call you long distance,
The wires sparkling platinum with current.

Do not touch the wires, learn that they are there,
Learn to walk within electric-fenced lots,
Learn that eucalypti prevent sun stroke.

Lift your scarlet jacket from the barn door;
Do not write “pickup security tour,”
Instead of “Sunday afternoon trip to town.”

The Tattler Thinking

Señor, do you like the things you do?

Do you sleep well at night?

I helped you
put the Horse Thief on foot
cleaning up bat-shit in the barn,
chopping wood.
I even removed his horse from his yard
when he was on vacation
so that when he returned
he would have to walk the 6 kilometers
to the barn
to report for work.
I even told you
he mostly slept all day
when you were not here.

I helped you put the Malinger,
on foot also
digging up thistle.

I helped you
remove the Cattle Rustler
by telling you where he hid the calves
(his cohort was the neighbor’s foreman).

I went to La Limpieza,
and gave orders to the Bad Guy . . .
boy, that made him angry,
taking order from me.

I have done all this,
and more
and yet you treat me like a dog
(what you do not know
is that I never would have told you anything
had the Bad Guys not given me go-fer jobs
and included me in their gang).

Well, Señor,
I am grateful you have finally
removed the Bad Guys,
but, you should never have taken
away my right to consumption,
(my right to kill a cow for food)—
that you should never have done—
and, you should never have yelled at me
for being an idiot and making me cry
in front of the other guys.

Now Señor,
when you are not on the ranch,
I do exactly what they did,
and to spite you,
I pen your horse
in a tight corral
without water
or grass.

And, I kill a cow now and then
anyway, for food.  It’s so easy to change numbers.
I just act stupid.

Tattler Too,

You have left, the last of the liars and thieves.
I am still here.
My armor is intact.
I had reason to keep it on.

I have learned to lie and I don’t like it.
Policy, politics, public relations,
A smile with a frown concealed,
A handshake with a dagger palmed.

You left like a thief in the night,
A raper, a burglar, a husband with a guilty
Conscious.  I did not try to take your pen,
I paid you what you were worth,
I only drove your sister to town
So she could see the sights.

I am missing five cows, a horse,
A standing closet, a truck battery,
A solar panel, a tire jack; accounts.

My promise of a better home for you
Will construct this month, the architects
Are at the gate, their tools in hand,
Their trucks laden with wood beams
And cement, floor tiles, window frames.

I never invaded your home without permission,
Never spoke to your sister behind the barn.
You tipped the scales, opened the gates,
Divided the calves by sex.

Your broken middle finger will never heal
Because your window keeps slamming shut upon it.
Now it is locked.  Drive, drive your truck handcuffed
To the wheel, blind yourself with headlights.

Your wife abandoned you when she found out
You took bribes, and that the Whistling Gaucho was fired because he
Visited her in the afternoons while you were
On the other side of the estancia, lining your pockets
With soy seed.


Here are poems written while I was ranching and farming during a sabbatical from teaching. I loved learning the cow-to-calf and the seed-to-harvest businesses even though I discovered first-hand that bucolic and pastoral are not synonymous with idyllic. I did however, after a long debate with the owner of the ranch, manage to keep a respectable portion of the land fallow at all times as a moral obligation to the health of the Earth and the people that populate the planet. We had streams, ponds, swamps, wood patches, and wild grass lots all over the place. Flowers of some kind were in bloom year round.  Honeybees, hawks, egrets, ibises, owls, parrots, oven birds, mockingbirds, vultures, snakes, worms, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, teguses (large lizards), armadillos, foxes, possums, skunks, and wildcats all lived in natural (food-chain) harmony near the cattle and sheep (but not often near the chickens).  Feral house cats played in the barn under sleeping bats. Boarder Collie mix-breeds ran behind the gauchos on horseback.  At one end of the ranch ran a river that flamingoes frequented.  All people, places, and events in the poems are, however, fictitious.  Website:

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