Fenced in

I have no endless prairie, no great plain;
No mesas rising from a sagebrush sea
Or mountains walling up my western sky.
No buckskin horse, a partner on the trail
With cutting witchcraft bred in blood and bone
And courage that comes out in mad glissades
Of canyon sides, a fall of flesh and stone.
No hide-warmed leather’s creak, no old rimfire
Or saddle-horn to take my dallies round.
No riding drag with only dust to eat;
No rock-ringed fire, no coffee brewed so strong
A horseshoe floats upon it. No corral
Red barn or pick-up truck, no gravel road
To some snug cabin hidden in the pines.
The open range I thought I had is fenced
Subdued and settled, parcelled up and sold
To strangers. There’s no room to spread a loop
Without a fencepost catching it. And so
Afoot in all these acres I once rode
I watch the clouds, and listen to the wind
That hisses, mocking, in the gleaming wire.

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14 thoughts on “Fenced in

  1. A wonderful poem full of longing, yearning, dreaming.

    And yet I know Nick, from your previous writings how much pleasure you do get from your surroundings as they are!!!

    When I dream I am living in Whitby, walking by the harbour and on the prom and having long conversations with the herring gulls who, on certain days, can appear more amenable companions than human beings.

    We do well to dream sometimes I think. It helps sustain us through the darker days.

    My best to you my friend

    David

    • You’re right, of course, David: I’m exceedingly lucky to live where I do, and I don’t think I’ve made any great secret of my love for the local countryside..! I guess this was just my lost youth putting in an appearance; most of the time I’m able to keep this part of me locked away for its own and others’ protection, but there’s a little bit of the dream I dreamed back when I was 21 that just refuses to do the decent thing and die quietly! I actually felt a bit guilty posting this: partly because it sounds so ungrateful, and partly because I fiind it easier not to admit that this side of me even exists. Issues to work through, perhaps…deepest thanks for your support, as always, my friend.

  2. Nick,

    This is fabulous. (You really must do that book!!)

    I really felt for you not having enough room “to spread a loop without a fencepost catching it”. That’s just how life feels sometimes 🙂

    A truly wonderful poem once again

    Christine xx

    • Thank you Christine, but I’ll come clean: I borrowed the thought behind that line from Will James, one of the great writers and illustrators of the American West and a bit of hero of mine. Sadly the pressure of fame was too much for him: he became an alcoholic and died in 1942, aged just 50. An all-too-short life, to be sure but he lived it, as Hemingway put it, ‘all the way up’. And I guess that’s what this piece is about; I got a glimpse of something a long time ago, and while life is good, it sometimes doesn’t feel quite like the one I thought I’d have! Gotta have a dream to make a dream come true, though. N.xx.

  3. I keep seeing the Marlboro (spelling..) man here…, you know, the cowboy with the asbestas lungs, but it is a lovely poem!
    Not doing the decent thing sounds rather appealing 🙂
    x

    • Thank you, Ina – the ranch I stayed on in Canada all those years ago (and which I’m still living on in my mind!) belonged to Lloyd and Rowena Jones, whose son Lonnie actually WAS a Marlboro Man! The ranch also gets a mention in a song by Ian Tyson; probably the best, and certainly the best-loved, singer-songwriter of the Canadian West. Happy days indeed.

      Dreams are very inconvenient and troublesome things, though, aren’t they? Life would be so much easier if they didn’t keep popping up and disrupting the orderly everyday flow. There’s still a part of me that wishes I hadn’t done the decent, sensible thing back when I was 21! Bit late now, I guess! N.xx

  4. 🙂 Now that is a coincidence! lol and I don’t even smoke!

    The wide open prairie etc, it must be a real free feeling to roam there 🙂 Dreaming is good! I suppose if you hadn’t done the decent etc. thing, you would now be wishing you had 🙂
    And after a year or so, those wide open planes sure would have been getting to you! How much empty desert can one digest?

    But you could go back there of course. Just for a nice holiday?
    xx

    • You’re right of course; the grass is always greener on the other side! And I think you have to be born to that kind of life – which I most certainly wasn’t. No, it’s good to have as a dream; and when I’m ‘discovered’ and they make me Poet Laureate, you can bet I shall be on the first plane over there! N.xx

  5. Well, Nick. The Davis household has an extra bed or two, Ethel is one of the world’s best cooks, there’s books strewn about every room, I can take you down dirt roads the washboard your teeth out of your mouth all you want, we have mesas, canyons, prairies, forests, deserts, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, elk, and lots of other creatures dangerous and benign, red rock cliffs that have appeared in hundreds of old western movies, rodeo arenas, cowboys, Pueblos, Navajos, cows, wild horses, and thousands of acres of wilderness. Consider yourself invited to drop by. Just make sure we know you’re coming so we can be home.
    The truth is that we will not likely visit England given the state of our finances and the fact that one of these years soon I will retire, but we would love to see the place where Winnie the Pooh was conjured, the lake poets created romanticism, and Shakespeare created the world out of a stage. We’d also love to sit down with Nick Moore, David Agnew, John Stevens, Ina, Jim Heinz, and so many of the poets we admire from your part of the world.
    I, for one, without any right in the world to do so, nominate you Poet Laureate and ask the question, why has the nomination already led to the office?
    Ahh, the dreams, the dreams…

    • Ah Tom – what a tempting vision that is, and a great honour too. I’ll get out to see you guys one of these days, I promise. And if you do ever find yourselves in the Old Country, we’ll have a poets’ gathering to go down in history.

      I don’t think I shall be getting The Call From The Palace any time soon, but your nomination as Poet Laureate is worth far more to me anyway. And I accept it gladly. Thank you.

      Let’s keep those dreams, however crazy, alive and kicking for ever. N.

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