White tails blocking traffic into the Chisos Basin campground

Sitting in the Kerrville Starbucks looking out on the last flickers of sunlight on the Guadalupe River. This is deer (hunting) country. I don’t know the figures, but hunting must rank as one of the top two or three legs of any three-legged stool that might describe the economy. We drove to Enchanted Rock outside Fredericksburg today and saw 40 or more tiny deer grazing in a single field, fattening up for deer season. Anyway, these deer are smaller than those I describe below in the Chisos Basin of the Big Bend. And anyone who doesn’t see a bit of Bambi in these little ones, smaller than Great Danes, probably doesn’t have a heart.


The foot high fawn

wobbles on her stilt-like legs,

but she’s no newborn.


Fawn and mother stand

in this Chisos Basin road,

confused and startled.


Finally they slide

off to my left where the mom

nips at the doe there,


blaming her, I guess,

for their having been stranded,

blocking the roadway.


Perhaps that’s not it.

Perhaps there’s a family

squabble she just remembered


and chose this moment

to get in the last nip and

pummel her with her hooves.


It doesn’t last long.

Soon they are back in the brush

hidden from my view.



Pointillist Starbucks scene, rendered in fall colors

Relaxing with friends and a warm beverage, a part of the season of Thanksgiving, though there’s no mention of the holiday. What makes the holiday unique is its focus on spending time with family and friends — that and stuffing of all kinds… Praise be to God for all good things, family and friends, and most of all his sustaining love.


There’s one advantage

to fear of mortality.

It sharpens perception.


It makes the crisp fall

light shining through tall windows

brighten the faces


of Starbucks patrons;

blends the relative chaos

into harmony


of Gospel music,

of pairs talking at tables

into a painting


of happy people

enjoying the company

of much valued friends.



would render in pastel hues,

but the browns are fine,


appropriate here,

with strong coffee aromas,

early fall weather outside.




The Big Easy

New Orleans offers many delights, and among the most delightful are foods. Add to that the soul-stirring trumpet sounds of my Christian street musician friend. Good struggles to overcome evil in an atmosphere in which the deck seems stacked the other way. But you’ve gotta love the food…


Pecan waffles and

juicy hamburgers, so said

restaurant reviews


— the Camellia Grill’s

trademark dishes worthy

of mid-morning trip


to the end of the

New Orleans cable car line.

So Mike and I went,


sharing specialties,

then walking mansioned streets  of

the Garden District


with its quaint bookstores

and a granita serving

coffeehouse bakery.


For grins we popped in

to a pretentious café

just to hear them tout



French-accented lunch menu,

a fourchuckle place


Before we left town

Mike and Maria treated me

to Breakfast at Brennan’s.


Poached salmon with egg

and a host of baked goodies.

But the real highlight,


had to have been the

waiter pouring coffee, cream,

blending the two streams,


brown and richly white,

in mid-air before the cup

could catch and pool them.


Café  con crema,

served with a panache even

I could appreciate.




Taos Pueblo stories

Taos Pueblo is some distance from the New Age resort and exploded art gallery that is Taos, New Mexico, and looks in large measure as it must have hundreds of years ago. Picturesque and authentic. We stumbled in the back door of the three-tiered adobe pueblo and wandered its streets.


Tradition bought without expenditure of gunpowder, shot

The tribal elders

stopped progress with their shotguns

at the pueblo’s edge


where the BIA

with electrification

trucks and wires met them.


The Taos Pueblo

with its 3-story ladders

and adobe bricks


remains a place lit

by kerosene lanterns, campfires.

The elders prevailed.


Or so the story

told us in the ’80s went.

Good enough for me.


Not a Hobbit moment

Middle-aged woman,

demented and daft,

met us as we crossed


the cold, rushing creek

into the Taos Pueblo.



she took a shine to

our slight, 5-year-old daughter,

stroking her sun-blonde hair.


We monitored her

obssessive attentions and

gently moved away


into the pueblo,

admiring the adobe’s

soft, sandy contours,


spare, slender ladders

climbing the sides of buildings,

leading to rooftops.


A female Gollum

could not have been more spooky

in those surroundings.


Taos church

In the village church,

up a stairway to a loft,

choir or otherwise,


perched a grayed woman,

not an Indian, herself,

beating a skin drum,



constantly, persistently

beating a skin drum.


But for what reason

— she maintained verbal silence,

but spoke with beating —


we would never know.

Though it seemed a mournful vigil,

all we know, we heard.


Spare me

I still hold to the truth conveyed in these lines, even after a decade. But it’s no death wish.  I’d like to think I have decades until my own peaceful departure from the stage, my own fall from the tractor…


“He died while on stage.”

“He fell off his tractor, dead.”

Music to my ears.


I know families

prefer bedside lingering,

last good-byes and all.


But what of the dead

or the soon about-to-go?

What is it they want?


—Prolonged suffering?

— Witnessing the sad tortured

tears, loved ones’ struggles?


Somehow I think not.

A last bow across the strings,

a straight furrow plowed,


then, at last relaxed,

into peace that will not end

—home into God’s arms.





As lake-effect snow buries folks in their houses in Upstate New York, it’s nice to remember that spring’s golden days will come again. Memories like these help us make it through those long nights when we don’t want to move away from the fireplace, get out from under the electric blanket. Little twin girls and a fountain and two pennies. Pretty basic joy-producing stuff.


Two tiny twin girls

pass by a sparkling fountain

with indulgent dad.


Sleepy sunset time.

Golden glow lights the evening

as the tiptoe twin


watches her sister

lean tentatively to toss

her small coin in.


Each in blue flip-flops

with flowery blue bauble

above the instep.



natures paid homage to by

tops of gold, turquoise.


Now ballet walker

gets her penny, approaches

the fountain’s edge, throws


with the clumsiness

only a four makes graceful,

memorable. Splash.




Links in love’s chain…

Unnamed here, they often remain the anonymous underpinning of our long lives. When I graduated from high school, mine gave me a greeting card with Kipling’s “If” printed inside, which I kept for years. One final act of civilizing and path showing while I still lived at home, one that has stayed a part of my inner dialogue, that dialogue that produces the self, identity.


They’re links in love’s chain,

one generation to next.



Without them life would

be cold, dark, burdensome.

It would be less than life.


All of us have one

whether we’re male or female.

Whether they were good


at softening life,

teaching us to do the same

for those in our paths,


or didn’t do job

as well as those more suited

to civilizing,


taming, enlightening,

passing the torch of culture

into unwilling hands.


For we all resist,

express natural tendencies,

don’t want to die to self.


So they must offer

— as their ultimate gift —

their lives as example.




Two twisters; three haiku sets; a progression

Perhaps lightning doesn’t strike twice, but apparently twisters do. Thirty years apart, two tornados swung down the driveway beside my in-laws’ white frame house, each time ripping up the fence — and a little other damage. But no great harm was done, as though their home was blessed, protected. Here’s the story of the twisters — three times…


Twisters I

It should frighten us,

the thought of twisters, that is,

with our history.


Despite all the odds

— lightning never striking twice

and all of that stuff.


They’ve done damage twice

to my wife’s parents’ home

yet never hurt them.


When a little girl

she stood with her grandmother

looking out the back door


as white picket fence

twirled up into the sky,

never to return.


And the second time

a red oak I’d helped plant

was gently lifted,


set against the house.

After 25 years’ growth,

quite a large tree.


But all it damaged

was a sturdy steel awning

that blocked summer’s sun.


Tornados have been

gracious in their gentleness,

not fear-inducing.


As though God himself

set a limit to damage

to the Barton house.


Twisters II


Twice the tornados

ripped down the house’s fenceline.

The white picket fence


twirled into the sky

when my wife was a small girl

while she and Nana watched.


Thirty years later

another ripped fiberglass

panels from fencing.


Maybe there’s something

about maintaining fences

that cyclones don’t like.


Twisters III


White picket fence flies

into the maw of the storm

never seen again.


Fully grown red oak

uprooted, lifted from ground,

leaned against the house.


No major damage though,

a right gentlemanly

set of tornados


striking the same house.

After a 30-year lapse,

remembered address.





Glimpsing a fragment of the Bass Hall Angels out an oval window

If you’re from Fort Worth, the sculpted Bass Performance Hall angels that are blasting enormous gold-toned trumpets as they breach the wall high above the street are a common, though still a breath-taking sight. Of note here, is the fact that this haiku is so brief and the title above so long that the piece is only 18 characters longer than the title.


The angels’ stone robes

extrude through the hall’s flat wall,

passing through its plane.

Wy wife’s grandmother’s freezer compartment orange cake

We’re headed toward Thanksgiving and Christmas when delectable and sometimes questionable sweet delicacies are pulled forth from cupboards and freezers by elderly relatives. Sometimes, at least, they are surprisingly good, as was the frozen orange cake…


Frozen orange cake

of indeterminate age.

She kept it in her freezer,

brought forth its fruity cake,

marshmallow mingled in its

powdered sugar coated round shape

on special occasions,

pouring on the rum

like sugar cane syrup,

softening it, adding flavor,

bringing it back to life

in half-inch slices.

Pungent, flavorful,

the ice crystals still

helping its disparate

constituent elements



You ate it tentatively,

out of polite, fear-filled

obligation and thereby gained

its surprisingly

ambrosial flavor,

a taste of heaven.