High Field                         

I came out west to California for the good rich earth they told of
My hands were gentle with the animals but flashy when I deal
I got a job with Richardson and saved what I could hold
My proudest day when I knelt down in my own field

Weather stopped the railroad and sickness dropped the cattle
The boss sold out when he lost his last steer
A rancher could grow poor with every golden shot of mercy
The barman poured on credit all through those bad luck years

     I'll still be working this high field though it is no longer mine
     When the sun hits the ocean that last time

Whiskey turned to soil, the only gold the barman needed
A rancher with a weakness was his living and his greed
A glass will numb the pain of whatever fortune haunts you
An inch of land in trade for all the medicine you need

     I'll still be working this high field though it is no longer mine
     When the sun hits the ocean that last time

I signed the paper and I will work until I am ashes again
Inch by inch I lost the wager for my little piece of land
It wasn't drink for me, it was the rosy cheeks of Annie
And those flashing cards that let my fortune slip out of my hands

     I'll still be working this high field though it is no longer mine
     When the sun hits the ocean that last time

Ten Mile Creek

There was fire in the hills
Up above Ten Mile Creek
We played every song we knew
Sheltered by a black oak tree

Your bowing arm still strong
But no night could hide your face
And then the sun came up to steal
One more number from your days

     Let’s go down to the water
     While there’s water in this valley to flow
     We’ll wait together by the shore
     Before the maker calls you home

We made nothing of the road
From the desert to the sea
I made a map of all your colors
You kept my colors safe for me

We paved the years with postage stamps
Broken loves and sweet tomorrows
Until you said beside the creek
You were going where I couldn’t follow

We laid you down to rest
It laid a hush on all my days
In the valley of the shadow here below
Where your fiddle used to play

Snow Days                           

County station tells her in the dark
No school today, the mercury’s still dropping
Mama calls from town: you be brave, little bird
Stay home and take care of papa

Snow days she makes angels in the garden
She can forget till he calls her back inside
Let’s play hide and seek while we’re alone, little bird
She’s never fast enough to hide

     In the summer she can run beside the river
     The river runs away from these dark hills
     She can hear the highway running north to the border
     Eight years till she can drive and then this place can’t hold her

She knows how to keep a secret
Smother it underneath the snow
Papa says no one would understand, little bird
Your mama never has to know

She turns into a crow
High above the river, a shadow on the snow
She flies as far as she can go


I bought milk but there’s no one here to drink it
Your coffee’s cold when I get back from town
There’s no one here to fix that leaky faucet
No one who knew me when my hair was brown

All my friends had a kind word of mercy
They went back to their lives when it was said
I wake up morning after morning
Still reaching for your side of the bed

     Can’t we just have one more cup of coffee
     Can you tell me how to do this on my own
     All these years you never broke a promise
     Except the one about us growing old

The pear tree out there is already blooming
I should have pruned it a month or two ago
I should have listened more when you were talking
About all those tender things you loved to grow

I should have loved you with all my fierceness
But half my heart was fighting with the past
That tired kiss while I was washing dishes
I didn’t know that it would be the last


You came around in June talking about the night you had
I laughed right along with all the rest
I’d hide out in the bathroom like I did in seventh grade
But that’s no way to treat a Sunday guest

I can’t stay standing in this whiskey-drinking crowd
Just a cup of coffee’s all I need
You were only killing time when you told me you were mine
Now summer can’t end soon enough for me

     I’d still drive across the county
     Just to listen to you play
     Cause I can’t stand the hush on Sundays
     Where these walls used to ring with songs of praise

So I will give all my silence to this empty little screen
I will give this yellow room an empty seat
I will tell myself I’m fine while the sun is high
But I still need your hymns to fall asleep

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be

I don’t hang up the ornament you gave me for the tree
But somehow I just can’t throw it away
There might come a Sunday when a few more winters pass
I can finally bless our summer days

Watch for Day

Blue and green, the colors are all quiet
A stack of paper napkins even though we’re both too cool to cry
Branches hold the secret and they tell it to the sky
And I wish the arms of this old tree were mine

     In the stillness of the hours
     In the wreckage from the storm
     When the landmarks have all changed
     All we can do is leave a light on
     And watch for day

You check all the windows and the doors
Then one day you wake up and there’s glass all over the floor
Whisper in the ceiling grows back into a roar
It says nobody knows you anymore

Saw the wild bird waiting on the stairs
To take our hands and bring us back into the air

On every corner do you see his coat
Does he vanish like the message on the blank paper of the note
For all the days before us we will listen in the smoke
For the one who never will grow old