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April 2014, vol 10, no 1

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Vicki Bonnell

Phantom Ranch

Rising high above the plains the dormant volcano Mt. Shasta. Compass home. Ominous. Chiseled white and grey run down the face, colors of these headstones. At my feet, kicked up breeze. Rustle through hollow wheat, slow up rolling hills, resting under twisted arms of a lone tree. French knots of oak pods. Last leaves twirl by threads.

Out ahead. Patchwork fields stitched in frayed split rails. Rusty plows still. Crumbling rock walls spill into the sound of cow creek. A vacant barn echoes back. Sparrows steal blackness from its bay. Horseless wagons trail. To the bunkhouse, bare coils of mattress springs, backbones of ranch hands. Cobweb halo over molted deer head. Head cocked sideways on tack shed. Corrals hold nothing but muddy ruts. Deep seeded. Foxtail in feed pail. The dandelion's will. Pendulum of a tire swing. Silent dinner bell.

Wrapped around the weathered porch post, pink roses on green. So must be the depth of the well that feeds it and the roots of me.

the homestead leans
on its shadow