Damn cow

A cow is screaming across the arroyo. I’m sweating, but my mouth is dry – my lips taste of dust when I lick them. I feel like screaming, too. The cow won’t last the night. We lit a fire to keep away night creatures and it’s comforting. If the damn cow would stop screaming I might get some sleep.

Tomorrow, I’ll dig for water.

The moon is bright and there are more stars than I’ve ever seen before. A few nights ago we had the strength to sing, but now we’re too exhausted. We passed more abandoned cars today, found some melted sweets, licked the papers for the taste of sugar. We can’t keep going, but we can’t stop either.

The cow screams again. Somebody swears at it, and we all laugh. What else can we do?

Linda is hosting at dVerse tonight, and it’s prosery night – 144 word flash fiction, incorporating a quote. Tonight’s quote is from Jim Harrison – “a cow is screaming across the arroyo”. I had to look up arroyo – it’s a dried up creek bed.


movement obscures the form
the light on the water dazzles us
we can’t quite see

we peer and probe
seeking always seeking
as if there is some power
in depth

as if that surface glitter
is not enough

maybe movement is all there is –

the fine oscillation
of atoms, more space
than substance –

energy transmitted and transforming,
the slow drift
into entropy

flames dancing on the surface
of the universe

 “It is life’s work to recognize the mystery of the obvious”
Jim Harrison ~ Songs of Unreason


It finally arrived – the last day of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason project. It’s going to be strange without the daily wrestle with Jim Harrison’s gnomic sentences. Thank you, Jilly, for bringing this to us. 

It’s too hot to poet much tonight. We hit 31 degrees today – unheard of in this green and pleasant land! – so this is my offering for dVerse’s open link night as well.

Solstice pilgrim

This, then, is her solstice pilgrimage,
this six monthly walk, down this too long corridor,
ticking off letters, – M is for Women’s Health,
P is for Medical Photography
Q is for X-ray and Imaging.

She’s here in the long days of summer,
when the windows are open in this small room,
letting in voices and slow moving air,

and again in the short dark winter days
when there’s not enough light to spare,
not enough warmth to go around –

stripped of power, clothing, efficacy –
she has a name-tag in her bag, out there
she’s someone, here she repeats her name,
address, date of birth at each desk –

Open Sesame

– and she’s touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands,
that press and smooth her skin,
searching for the death that bubbles under it.


And there you go – Day 26 of Jilly’s 28 days of unreason challenge. I’m going to make a confession now: I haven’t read any Jim Harrison apart from the quotations put up here. I will, but I wanted to do this challenge without any preconceptions about his work, and just take each quotation on its own terms. It’s been a great series of prompts. I can’t believe we only have two to go. 

And here’s the quotation:

“There is a human wildness held beneath the skin that finds all barriers brutishly unbearable”   from Songs of Unreason


I’m also linking it up to tonight’s dVerse prompt – opposites attract, posted by Lillian. She asks us to write a poem including some opposites as contrasts. I’ve used the two solstices here.

Solstice storm

They bring the weather with them –
wild winds that flutter home-made pennants,
set lanterns rocking, shadows leaping
up canvas walls and wooden pallisades –

they sing out loud, gathering in loose groups
and drinking sun-gold cider, moonlight vodka –
tell stories round the dancing flames
of midnight fires: their stories –
tales that shift and change
with every telling, forging their own myths.

They’re gathering here before the solstice,
a ragged caravan of feathers, flapping, black;
of russet coats and cool green gazing;
of blues and yellows, splashing monochrome,
dark masks, striped faces, brown eyes
blinking in the light. A mustering of

muddy feet and velvet coats. Silk scarves
and dirty claws, and silver rings.

They bring the weather with them,
call up the wind, send cloud wolves
rioting across the sky,
wait for the sun to rise.

Day 25 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason project. A whole month of poems inspired by quotations from Jim Harrison’s work. 

“A violent windstorm the night before the solstice”. from Solstice Litany



Those of us cradled gently,
basking in the warm gaze of the universe,
who blossomed quietly,
opening in love

we have deep roots

and we carry light within us,
and the silence of the living forest.

For Day 22 of Jilly’s month of Unreason. 

“The world that used to nurse us

now keeps shouting insane instructions.

That’s why I ran to the woods.”

~ Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

What is the question?

He was a man who gathered facts
what does moonlight taste like?
as if he could build a world from them,
who first fell in love? with whom?
snatched dates and data from the atmosphere,
what do flowers dream of?

cross-referenced, indexed, filed.
what colour are my eyes?
He questioned endlessly, collated
can you hear a sunbeam strike the ocean?

all the answers, in boxes first,
where did I leave my keys?
then just in piles, great tottering heaps
what noise do Saturn’s rings make?

that rose around him,
what’s the gestation period of the unicorn?
and still, the world eluded him.

where does love live?

For Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, where we are all Jim Harrison tribute acts. Today’s quotation is:

“I see today that everyone on earth

wants the answer to the same question

but none has the language to ask it.”

~ Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

She doesn’t want to write about love

She’s not going to write about love –
because everyone writes about love,
and everyone knows
that love is a rose
and love is a thorn,
and love is a glistening
bead of blood on a fingertip.

There’s so much more to life
than love – there’s moonlight,
and reading, and bottomless coffees,
but everyone knows that
love is a warm jolt of caffeine,
and love is a poem,
and love is the moon,
and love is a lone wolf howling,

and even when she strips
the metaphors out of her work,
writing a forest – a real one –
she drove there, and pressed her hand
into the bark of a tree
’til her palm was marked,
still everyone knows
that love is a tree,
and love is a forest,
and love is the road
that carries you there.


“Love is raw as freshly cut meat,

mean as a beetle on the track of dung”

~ Jim Harrison  from Songs of Unreason


Day 20 of this 28 day delve into the world of Jim Harrison. Jilly is hosting a month of Unreason. Check it out. There’s some great stuff being written there.


Did I babble? Did I spill the secrets

of my immediate desires, not deep,

not very deep, just basic stuff –



Did I reveal myself, in my

vulnerability, my coming to,

my emerging from that hazing mist,

my brain stretching itself, releasing

small thought bubbles that had no

real life, just that primal craving –



“I’m quite tired of beating myself up to write.  I think I’ll start letting the words slip out like a tired child. “Can I have a piece of pie” he asks, and then he’s asleep back on the cusp of the moon.”

~ Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

That Jilly is totally unreasonable, expecting us to keep up with this challenge! Day 19 of 28 Jim Harrison prompts. 

Finding wisdom

There is wisdom in the mountains –
the wisdom of high and lonely places –
and the birds have wisdom,
the knowledge they carry
deep inside, unspoken,
of moving with and against the air.
The cat knows how to be still,
how to coil energy in muscle,
how to spring. The tree knows
how to grow, how to seek strength
in the soil.

She’s never trusted her body
to crave the right things. She’s
never stopped to listen – has
crammed her feet into the wrong shoes,
cinched her waist tightly,
read the labels on tins and packets
obsessively, counting numbers
that don’t count. She’s over-ridden
her own desires so often
she doesn’t know what she wants.

The bee knows how to dance.

Inside that bean there is a plant
that needs water, earth, light,
to grow tall. Touching something
with its twining tendrils, to cling
and coil, and seek support,
opening its flowers to the bee –
that dancing bee, that carries
sweetness and information in
equal quantities – always the mystery
of growth and flower and fruit and seed.

She sought wisdom in distant places,
danced under full moons,
read so many books that told her
who she was, as if some distant
writer knew her better than she did herself.
She listened to whalesong,
had her skin rubbed with oils,
cut out gluten, dairy, carbs,
ran so fast she met herself
coming back.

There is no wisdom in the soil,
but you can find it there, if you dig deep –
it’s in the digging. There’s no wisdom
in a loaf of bread, but you can find
a kind of wisdom in the making of it.
There is no wisdom in the ocean,
but if you sit there, reading it,
you’ll find the wisdom that you carry
deep inside,waiting for sun, and air,
water and food, waiting to blossom,
waiting to fruit. Be still.

There’s no real wisdom in a poem, but you can find your wisdom there.

This is for Day 17 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, poems springing from the diving board of Jim Harrison. Today’s quotation isn’t from a poem, but from an essay: 

“Prolonged exposure to nature gives one a sort of grammatica pardo*, a wisdom of the soil.”

~ Jim Harrison,  from A Really Big Lunch

*to be worldly-wise; know the ways of the world

Technically,  A Really Big Lunch is not a book of poetry; it is a series of essays by Harrison.  I am currently reading it. Warning:  it is outlandish and best read with much wine and a propensity for laughter. I used this quote because, like much of his prose, it has the stuff of poetry and because his connection to nature is a big part of why I connect with the poetry.

 As always, everyone is welcome to join in.  Write a poem inspired by this quote, post it, credit Harrison, link back in the comments, stop back by and read other poets.  Cheers! Jilly


Limestone doesn’t quite believe

that it’s a rock – all those shells

and bones still yearn for water –

dissolution, floating free.

Water carves

its spaces; dripping hollows

sheltering secret vegetation,

great halls and caverns full

of glistening columns –

that ancient geological dance

of rock and water, merging,

separating, weaving a strange world

of clints and grykes, and sudden

sink holes –

rivers dropping out of view

and running under rock –

leaving the sound of running water

in the empty air.


“The hardest part is when the river
is too swift and goes underground for days on end”  

~Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

This is a very concrete response to the quotation. Or is it? You are the reader, you make the poem. This is for Jilly’s 28 days of unreason.