IN THE GLOAMING by John Dofflemyer

© 2019, Robbin Dofflemyer

by John Dofflemyer

Evening conversation dwells
on a thin cow, vaccine
protocol and the dog’s limp

without a hint of politics
beyond the barbed wire—
beyond this ground and grass.

We don’t want to know
what makes the news—
what makes the outside world

tick with greed and power.
Evening conversation dwells
on more important things.

© 2019, John Dofflemyer
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

This poem is included in fifth-generation California rancher John Dofflemyer’s  latest chapbook, Reckoning. The title poem sets the stage for the collection, of “great escapes that conserved my sanity.” The often deceptively spare pieces can give way to gratifying contemplation and profound truths.


In most of these fine poems, his world encompasses all that he can see each day in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills, from the proverbial grain of sand to the ridge tops. They are dispatches from a place far away from world chaos, but not always far enough.

His heroes include killdeer, his hopes “the sky that holds the storms” (“The Rock”) and silence “to listen to where it leads to what you know” (“It Is an Art”). He celebrates water, cattle, spring, and a celestial vision in which, looking toward a natural end, he expresses a desire “to be reconstituted among the grasses” and watching “among the remnants when the angels make their gather” (“Heavenly”).

But all is not pastoral richness. Underlying threats from the “real world” challenge this real world. A sign of our times, the menace lurks, something deeper even than the threat of drought or disease: the world’s inescapable perils that come increasingly close.

Encroaching urban spread is “like wildfires burning closer as convenient conflagrations that have erased landmarks where we hung our memories” (“Conflagration”). Greed and ambition may be leading to a world “that may go hungry with no landscapes left to feed their souls or flesh” (“The Last Gasp of Manifest Destiny’). There’s no lack of resistance, but a certain resignation or perhaps realization is found in a response to the madness, “Nothing I can change but feed more hay to hungry souls” (“Weather Report”).

Anyone interested in poetic craftsmanship and ranch life will be rewarded by John Dofflemyer’s writing and the opportunities to read, think, and be moved by his words. Find order information ($10) for “Reckoning” at

Versions of these poems have appeared in Dry Crik Journal; Perspectives from the Ranch,  a blog with near-daily poems, commentary, and photographs. You can subscribe to the blog, and poems are often posted also on Facebook. Robbin Dofflemyer most often contributes the photographs; the one accompanying this post is hers.

Poem excerpts are also included in Losing Ground, a 2019 documentary from the American Angus Association about “the impact of urban sprawl on American agriculture.”

John Dofflemyer’s innovative periodical, the Dry Crik Review of Contemporary Cowboy Poetry, published fourteen print volumes, 1991-1994, and an electronic double volume in 2005. It’s an invaluable archive of the poems and poets of the time. Find a comprehensive index at

John Dofflemyer is a frequent invited performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find more about him and his books and publications at and

(Please respect copyright. To share this poem or photo, request permission.)