Married Into It - a New Book of Poetry from the American West

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:08/04/2011 Updated:08/06/2011

DFFHFCC9UED2 Two poems that illustrate the relationship between ranchers and their land and animals, from Patricia Frolander, a lauded and award-winning American poet.

One of the side benefits of this job is the amazing people I get to meet, whether in person, over the phone, or via email.  Occasionally, a lovely person like Carol Hamilton will share things with me, such as Married Into It, a book of poetry by Patricia Frolander published this year by High Plains Press.  I happen to enjoy poetry, and absorbing Patricia’s book of poems felt like taking a pensive walk through wide open rangelands.

Patricia did, indeed, marry into the ranching life.  She and her husband, Robert, purchased their ranch in the Black Hills of Wyoming in 1985, but it had been in his family since 1885.  Now an entire posse of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all live near that ranch.  Her first book was Grassland Geneology, published in 2009. 

She has kindly given me permission to reprint two of her poems here.  I’ve chosen two of my favorites.  Patricia told me, "'Why I Stay' was written in response to the question, 'Why do you stay?' from my publisher, Nancy Curtis, of High PLains Press after she had read my manuscript.  She felt that might be a question the reader of my book might have.  I am so grateful she asked.”

Why I Stay

for awakening grass and chokecherry leaf,
a flute-warbled song from a yellow throat,
a heart, quickened, at springtime blush.
I revel in rain-drenched fields,
ramble meadows and hillsides,
seek coyote and fox,
glimpse fawns nestling in tall grasses.

I rouse to calls of Canada geese,
their vee slicing blue air,
seek the bandit who eats my winter grain,
laugh at ducklings’ play in the reservoir,
rejoice at the stallion’s nicker calling his mares.
I stay for the rhythm of season,
for the land, always the land,
for a man whose hands know my heartbeat
almost as well as God knows my soul.

About the next poem, Patricia says, “'Bandaging Love' was written just as it happened. The mare needed my loving attention. I could tend to her.”  Other problems, though, are not so easily mended.

Bandaging Love

The bay mare stands patiently, almost asleep,
as I soothe her aching muscles with sharp-smelling liniment.

Years ago, she was our best cutting horse.
            She will finish her days here --
tall grass in summer, hay and warm shelter in winter.
Love and silent conversation seal our relationship.

I can’t mend the mare’s legs
any more than I can mend
my children’s crippled hearts.
I bury my face against the mare’s neck.
My dearest friend listens,
            soothing me as only she can.