blacksmithed and cowboyed at Ghost Ranch
back when the last century was new;
his wife took care of their adobe house,
the horses, the garden of frijoles and chilis,
raised the crippled daughter with the artist’s eye
who painted the bright flowers and cacti,
still visible above the house’s doors
and chiseled the outline of a horse
in bedrock beside the corral.
Eighty years later
Blackie, his wife and daughter are long gone.
I find myself fixing the roof of their homestead
as an ancient wind blows across the desert,
trying to take down this old house
while it rearranges the landscape,
slowly carves away the mesas,
fills the arroyos with sand.
I’m fixing this house because it’s part of a story,
and stories are all that remain of all of us
after we go the way of rotting vigas, crumbling adobe.
TSTmpj: A wonderfully observed poem. Do you have a personal connection you would like to talk about with the south west of the United States?
Larry Schug: Burnham's old homestead is located at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, New Mexico. You may recognize the name as a place where Georgia O'Keefe lived and painted. For the past 17 years I have been going to Ghost Ranch with a group of college students who do community service during their spring break. Not all college students go to Padre Island and get drunk; this group does wonderful work for Ghost Ranch (a retreat/conference/educational center, a place that provides peace) and its neighboring community. Its history includes dinosaurs, Native American civilizations, a Spanish land grant, a dude ranch and now is a retreat/conference/educational center, a place that provides peace). I love the place for its high desert scenery, so different from that in which I grew up and still live in Minnesota and its unique culture, a blend of native, Hispanic and Anglo cultures. It has been a very inspiring place for my poetry over the years.
TSTmpj: I'm even reminded of Shelley's "Ozymandias". Is "Time", its passing, a recurring theme in your work?
Larry Schug: I try to subscribe to the idea that "the present" is the only time I truly exist in. That said, I think time is really a river, a flowing entity where the past, present and future all touch each other. Is there really an upstream and a downstream in a river? Only from one vantage point. Living in such a clock oriented, linear time oriented culture, I don't think we've quite grasped the reality we exist in. To answer your question, time is important in my writing, but with more of a zen outlook.
TSTmpj: And echoes of Browning's character portraits. Let me cease talking about my favourites; what are some of yours?
Larry Schug: Among my favorite poets are the late, Lucille Clifton, who I met a number of times and consider a friend. Her poems about Crazy Horse, a famous Sioux Chief, are some I greatly admire. I also like Jimmy Santiago Baca, a New Mexico poet, the late Bill Holm (from my home state), Barton Sutter, a former teacher of mine and poet extraordinaire, Gary Snyder--where do I stop, there are so many! I do think I've been influenced by the Romantics from early in my college days.
Larry Schug lives near a tamarack bog in central Minnesota. Tamaracks are the only conifers that lose their needles in winter.