the malingerer

by stephen page

The gaucho who has not worked
For three months because of a nail
In his ankle, who has not lived
On the estancia since I became patrón,
Hobbled in behind me on one of my walking
Rounds. He hopped the front gate after I
Passed, limped and crouched along a high weed ditch, kept to
The shadows of the trees until I was safely away
From my ranchhouse and on my way
Out of the casco and on to paddock eight before he exposed
Himself and shuffle-skipped across my yard to knock
On the back door and ask my wife for his pay.

The Tattler says he never worked, laid animal traps,
Cut down Teresa’s lemon tree.

the horse thief

by stephen page

You left on vacation the day we threw the Rustler
off the ranch, your taillights brandishing out
the front gates, and for ten days peace settled
upon the ranch, the mockingbirds nestling inside
the casco, the cows cudding, the bulls feeding
on lot #10, even the sheep not baa-ing, and except
for two of your mongrels loosing themselves from
their tethers and breaking into the henhouse, the sun settled
red and rose yellow; even the weekend rain plithed softly
into the soil, regreening by Monday the dormant
winter grass.

You are the Accomplice, the one who the Tattler told us
helped the Rustler, the one who lives near the back gate,
the one who sleeps all day and nightly visits the neighbor
riding roan horses that no longer exist.

A thunderstorm rivered the road on the night of your
return, preventing you from driving out the main
gate at your leisure, and when we locked the back
gate, it disallowed cowardly exit. The new working
hours I set confined your family’s laughter to
the kitchen, which, by the second day was locked inside
a corner cupboard, becoming cobweb. You stood outside
my casco at predawn and belligerently questioned
my order of the day, unhorsing you. You threatened
to quit, which I granted permission, which pressed
your lips together and skulked you toward the firewood
piled next to the barn, where you picked up an ax, glanced
at me, then turned and stared beyond your unsaddled horse
at the new calves watching you from within
the Santa Ana fenceline.

statement of place: stephen page

I often ran barefoot through Michigan woodlands as I was growing up. I climbed trees, leapt over fallen trunks, and sludged through swamps. I learned to swim very young, so I easily forded rivers and swam across large lakes. My Aunt Dee and Uncle John instilled in me reverence for nature and respect for the land. They also taught me how to hunt, trap, and fish—but only for sustenance, not for sport. As an adult, after randomly wandering the globe and vocationing myself in numerous noble and not-so-noble positions, I found myself in South America, ranching and farming. I always ensured that a respectable portion of the land was kept fallow as a refuge for the local flora and fauna—equally as a morale obligation to the earth’s environment and its populace.