Mule Skinner

After five days at the fairgrounds
in Bishop California
finishing third and fourth
in a couple of calf roping events
and chatting with a small but steady stream
of strangers who strolled the rows of stalls
after days of bits of apples and carrots
for children to feed to his mule Sunflower
Henry was more than happy to lift
the heavy tongue of his dust streaked trailer
walk Sunflower up the metal ramp
turn north onto highway 395
and as the mountains began to tinge red
he looked to a summer of days in the saddle
and felt the knots in the back of his neck
two days drive to Bozeman Montana

Jawbone Siphon Song


Jawbone Siphon Song                 

                                         “There it is. Take it.” William Mulholland

Bart drove Sarah up Three Ninety Five
then North away from the two lane blacktop
on the unmarked graded road

to where steel pipe as wide as an automobile
bends up eight hundred fifty feet
a giant “V” carved on canyon walls

They stood on the warm steel in the sun
and felt the heat work into their shoes
felt the vibrations under their feet

and heard the Jawbone Canyon Siphon’s
hum         almost inaudible above
the desert sounds and silences.

Bart talked cubic feet per second
incompressible fluid and the pressure
of a column of water towering high

and Sarah listened        but listened too
to the song from inside the arched metal tube
as the water raced passed hoop joints and rivets

echoes of flowers in Onion Valley
and trickles from glaciers nestled in
the granite slopes of the Palisades

she heard the scratchy resonance
of dried out fields      sold-out farms
and the whisper of men at the spillway gates

and a mantra of names
Eaton Mulholland Lippincott
Otis San Fernando Los Angeles

a chant repeated by the wind
as it picked up the salt and sand
from the dry brown bed of Owens lake

to twirl across the empty flats
and sift through the shells of windows and doors
in the broken-down sheds of Olancha

Copyright © Frank Kearns 2014