YOU DON’T SEE ME by Mary Matli


by Mary Matli

You don’t see me
I am of the drive by people
65’ from the yellow stripe
On an old gray
No, not for trade
We follow 30 head of good 1st calf heifers

You don’t see me
You see unmanicured sunburnt grass
Vast open miles of . . . nothing
No shopping malls
No super-size it
No double shot make it skinny
No neon flashing to hypnotize in the gotta have it
……….Right now store

You don’t see me
I’m in your way
72,000 pounds
Cat Diesel screaming
4,000 gallons at a time
Keeping you 10 under when you want to be 20 over
A black smoke rolling lumbering roadblock that you’ll
 ……….Risk your life to get around
No, I won’t take the ditch for you.

You don’t see me
My rain drenched face upturned
Hands full of precious mud after 100 days without
Or my tears
They fall on the still wet hide of the calf I just couldn’t save
Boots walking the floor at midnight trying to balance too
……….Many and too few
Where is the grass? Where is it not?
Can baby calves walk that far?
And how many days ‘til we ask them to walk again
And where do we go . . . then?
No, you don’t see me

You can keep your multi-line
Fax clacking, copier reeking
Formaldehyde scent carpeted star rated suffocation boxes

Out here
I can take a deep breath without feeling like I’m stealing
……….Your oxygen
I feel the sun, the wind
I bury my face under a horses mane and my world is right
And I am home

I am grateful
You don’t see me

I ask now
When you fill your cart
With bounty of sustenance
Suited to your tastes
Your cravings
Say a little prayer
Say thank you
Remember us out here

We give up shopping malls around the corner
And soccer practice
And paved roads
Electricity, Big screens, Paid vacations

We give our youth to sun
And wind
And worry
We live and die by conservation
And an annual paycheck
We fill your pantries
The ranchers
The farmers
The drive-by people
Now do you see me?

© 2017, Mary Matli

Arizonan Mary Matli, who runs a remote cow camp, is featured in this month’s Western Horseman issue in a profile by Jennifer Denison. It tells how she dreamed of having the family ranch passed down to her, but it was sold while she was still a teenager. She married young, divorced, and raised her four daughters doing a variety of jobs. After decades of being away from ranching, several years ago she hired on as a cook at
Diamond A Ranch in northern Arizona. From there she worked on the Spider Ranch and then the Howard Mesa Ranch.


She tells us, “I currently have a cow camp job. The ranch I run is part of several that my boss either owns or leases. I run cow/calf pairs year round and steers usually January through May. I am responsible for the cattle, waters, thirty or so miles of pipeline and general maintenance of the ranch and equipment. I also take care of waters on the west side of the neighboring ranch, that my boss also leases, six months of the year…”

In the Western Horseman article, she says, “There aren’t many people who would give a 54-year-old woman a ranch camp job. My boss gives me every chance to succeed and won’t let me fail.”

She commented to us that, “‘You Don’t See Me’ was written at the Howard Mesa Ranch north of Williams, Arizona. It was almost shocking to watch traffic coming south from the Grand Canyon and see how many people never looked even to the side of the road.”

Mary Matli collaborated on this poem with Amy M. Hale, a respected writer and poet who also cowboys on the Spider Ranch.

A past president of the Arizona Cowboy Poets gathering, Mary Matli has been the recipient of the Gail I. Gardner award and the Georgie Sicking Award. She performers her work, which is included in both volumes of Facing West: Voices of Western Women, edited by Sally Bates of Arizona Cowboy Connection.

Mary Matli’s four children have given her seven grandchildren.

(Request permission to share this poem or photo.)