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Poems by Duane Bristow

Duane Bristow married Eva Harlan April 17, 1965. These are a few things he wrote in the years 1961 to 1966 when he was 14 to 18 years of age.

Early One September Morn

                   Early One September Morn
                        by Duane Bristow
                        September 4, 1962

        The western mountains were yet to know,
        The warmth of the sun,
        And in the East the stratus hid,
        The entrance of his majesty.

        Yet, above them,
        (They were so still),
        The cirrus showed the white of silk.
        (For from the sky and from the cloud,
        The sun's glory reflected down.)

        Silvery jewels, they were set,
        Beneath a shroud of blue so pure.
        And yet, could even God devise,
        A blue so blue, A white so white?

        And beneath in the valley where shadows lay,
        From a hill I watched the morning unroll.
        And the September air, it was chill,
        At least chilly to one,
        So long used to the summer sun.

        The wind in the mountain,
        You could hear it blow,
        Foretelling of winter and snow.
        And the white, it was pure,
        And the blue, it was peace,
        And hoping someday,
        That all strife should cease,
        Here what I saw, I set down,
        That to him who could see,
        It could be found.

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The Mysterious Night

           The Mysterious Night
             by Duane Bristow
             October 31, 1962

The corn is in the shock.
The punkin's in the shed.
The lonely night wind blows away the day,
And summer.

It is cold.
It will frost tonight.
The cows low in the barn.
All is silent,
Save for the rustling of dead fall leaves.

It is a cold light the lonely moon spreads upon the scene.
It is a warm light from the home spreading out.

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The Chapel

                    The Chapel
                 by Duane Bristow
                 November 8, 1962

The walls are mighty oaks and beeches towering to the sky,
The ceiling, the sky, is of purest blue.
The floor soft moss and rich dead leaf,
The light a sunbeam filtering through the deep green leaves above.
The Chapel of God!

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A Winter Night

                         A Winter Night
                        by Duane Bristow
                          November 1964

        The stars in silent grandeur,
        spanned a sleeping valley.
        Their light in myriad points,
        danced on ice-fringed creeks,
        and made snow blanketed fields to glisten.

        The silence was broken by a snap,
        as sap-filled hardwood froze and burst.
        A flitting shadow slipped from the wood,
        as nocturnal hunter, wily and bold,
        sought, his eternal hunger, to satisfy.

        The darkness of mountains rose above,
        crowned now by dawn's new light.
        And in the sky straight o'er head,
        the stars dimmed their winter light,
        to pay homage to the day,
        whose coming is heralded by the dawn.

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Prayer of a Man

         Prayer of a MAN
         by Duane Bristow

Let my roof be the sky,
and let the earth be the floor of my feet.
Let me drink the cold spring water,
as it gushes from the mountain caverns.
Let me eat the fresh killed game,
and the fruits and herbs of the meadows.
Let me sleep under the sparkling stars,
beside a campfire of fragrant forest wood.
Let me rise before the sun,
to roam the mountains and fields.
Let me climb the mountains and swim the lakes.
Let me race the deer and let my spirit soar like the eagle.
Let me work that I may live,
and let my body grow strong and clean.
Let me live for purity's sake that I may learn and obtain wisdom.
Let me be honest and fair in all my dealings with others.
Let me be always true and sincere.
Let me help the weak and share with those less fortunate than I.
Let me fight for what I believe is right.
And let me live out my days in peace.

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God's Little World

                       God's Little World
                        by Duane Bristow

        Day is gone and night is come,
        And God in his heaven sits.
        He watches over the world below,
        And in his eye amusement glints.

        One by One, he lights the stars on high.
        To wondering humans in the world below,
        He shows his glory in the sky.

        Now all is well!

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                        by Duane Bristow
                          May 23, 1963

        Hot sun beating down.
        Hot dust under bare feet.
        Lizards hide beneath cool rocks.
        The breeze is stilled.
        Birds are silent.
        Sleeping clouds hang above.
        Work waits for dinner.
        Cattle doze beside lazy streams.
        Men shuffle back to the fields.
        Afternoon begins.

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Summer Shower

                          Summer Shower
                        by Duane Bristow
                          May 23, 1963

        Dark clouds rising from the Southwest,
        Hot sun obscured,
        A cool wet breeze.
        Gray wall in front of the mountain,
        Giant missles pelt dry dust.
        Rain beating, beating on the roof,
        A wall of water swaying with the wind,
        Slacking up, then thundering on,
        Dark, green, wet world.

        Cornwagons rumbling across the sky,
        Jagged lightning streaking earthward,
        Storm dwindling to a shower,
        Sun shining through the clouds,
        And a rainbow over the mountain.
        Shafts of sunlight slanting downward,
        From holes in the clouds.
        Drops of water glistening on the leaves,
        Sunlight spreading over all.
        Water dripping from green trees,
        Birds come out of hiding,
        Flying and singing,
        Tranquil peace.

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God made the universe, a continuous working whole, a thing of beauty, and then he placed man in it to show him how he should divide and subdivide and classify it.

Silence is a virtue. A silent man is never wrong.

To understand what others have done is intelligence.
To do what others have not done is genius.

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Occupation - Farmer

Softly the farmer tip-toed to the back door. The screen creaked on its rusting hinges as he closed the door behind him. Walking down the back porch steps he could hear a mocking bird welcoming the dawn from the top of an apple tree in the orchard behind the house. A big collie came out from under the porch and silently swung into step beside him. His milk bucket swinging at his side the farmer turned across the lawn, drenched with early morning dew. Over the hill on his left he could hear the babbling of the fog encased brook and somewhere across it the crow of a rooster signaled that another day had dawned. As he walked under the spreading branches of an old apple tree, he reached above his head and plucked one of the juicy red apples. He was promptly rewarded by a shower of dew from the heavily laden limbs above. Emerging from beneath the tree onto the open path the collie shook himself and unloaded his burden of water upon the farmer. The farmer walked on through the orchard path as a rabbit flushed from a clump of grass by the collie ran across his feet. His leather shoes wet on his feet, the farmer swung open the wooden gate at the end of the path and stepped into the dry dirt of the barnyard. A cow, seeing him coming, lowed softly and a horse neighed for his morning oats. The noise became an uproar as the awakened banties began to squawk and the other cows and horses took it upon themselves to join the fun. And the farmer walked into the barn.


The sun peeked from behind the mountains and spread its golden light upon all the world as the farmer, soaked with sweat after milking the last cow, emerged from the barn. He paused for a moment to watch the sun rise, then turned his steps toward home and the bacon and eggs awaiting him there.

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The Mountain in Summer

by Duane Bristow

I leaped across the stream made shallow by the lack of rain and stood for a moment on the island before jumping the branch of the stream on the other side of the island. It was cool here beneath the trees and a breeze blew softly as the creek babbled along its way. I jumped to the other bank and looked back. Beyond the trees the sun shone harshly down on the parched grass and a lonely buzzard sailed silently above the distant hills. Below me a small fish lay resting close to the bank away from the current of the water.

I turned and walked into the dark and cool shade of the mountain forest and began to climb. The air was fragrant with the scent of decaying leaves. A few squirrels chattered noisily overhead so absorbed in their play that they did not see me until I was below them. Then they silently disappeared into the tree tops. As if to disturb the silence a bird chirped and a hawk darted through the trees. A car horn blew somewhere below. Further up the mountain some bees flew lazily in and out of an old hollow tree.

Soon the forest broke away and I came to a field of grass stretching upward with occasional groups of trees offering shade from the hot sun. At the top of the field I looked back and saw the fields in the valley below with a few cattle here and there. A farmer was mowing hay seemingly beneath my feet. Aside from this there was no movement near the house below. The sun was slowly sinking behind a distant mountain as I turned by steps regretfully toward home and supper.

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The Spell

by Duane Bristow
November 21, 1962

How the message came I do not know. But I know that it came when all was gloomy. It said, "Rejoice and prepare for Spring is coming and following it will be Summer. Behold, Winter is dead." So the message came and the spell of Spring fell on all the forest.

And it seemed as if it were the rebirth of life on Earth. The birds sang as they had never sung before. The trees lost the sad air of Winter and began to dress in green, the color Summer likes most. The flowers peeped from the hiding places to be sure Winter was gone before they came forth to bloom and spread their blossoms in the path of Summer.

And so it was and again the message came. Only this time it said, "Cease your preparations and go forth and meet him for Summer is here." And so the birds, the trees, and the flowers went forth and met Summer and they circled themselves around him and he spread his warm smile over all. But alas, the could not spend all their time in rejoicing so they went about their work but they still found plenty of time to lie in the sun and enjoy Summer.

And again the message came and this time it saddened the hearts of all for it said, "Say goodbye to Summer and dress in your finest for Autumn is here." And because they knew they would not have long before the extended Winter, the herbs grew as they had not grown before and the herbs and the trees produced seeds, and the animals stored food for the Winter months. And then the herbs went back into their hiding places to escape the wrath of Winter. The trees put on bright colors to try to entice Summer to remain yet a while. Now it was time for that great ceremony which comes only once a year and which few see. All that vast forest stopped still in its tracks as if stopped by an invisible hand to look both ways before proceeding at such a great pace. And, looking backward, it paid a last tribute to summer and, looking ahead, it stopped to catch its breath before plunging into Winter.

And the brook settled into deep and mysterious pools and babbled over the rocks. And the bright leaves fell from the trees into the pools adding a touch of color to that darkness. And they fell on the floor of the forest to spread color over all. Through the holes in the dome of the forest left by the falling leaves the sun peeped and played with the bright colors. And in the trees the birds could be seen as could the squirrels and in the grass the rabbits were abundant for these creatures could not now hide behind the leaves of summer.

And so it was in that forest and Winter lay his spell over all. The Winter was beautiful many times when the frost would cling to the tree tops and the snow covered the ground. And the sun would come out and make the frost and the snow sparkle. But the creatures of the forest could not see this for it was cold and they were hungry. They patiently awaited the message that would again tell of the coming of Spring.

And so it was in that land and the mysterious messages would come and each time a message came nature would change her mood and a different spell would fall over all.

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Night on the Chisholm

The land was flat in the valley but on two sides high hills rose steeply toward the sky. Near the center of the valley many dark humps showed faintly in the starlight. These were the Texas Longhorns which had traversed the miles of Chisholm dust. In a nearby clump of trees firelight flickered. A low hum of voices could be heard occasionally punctuated by the plaintive lowing of a steer.

It was a crisp cold night after the hot day. Overhead the stars were bright and lonely. Then the low sad cry of a harmonica shattered the night's loneliness into a thousand pieces. The music drifted over the valley and engulfed the hearts of all. For fifteen minutes the sound swelled on the breeze and brought back old, long forgotten, memories. Then as suddenly as it had begun the sound ceased and the stillness that descended on the valley was even deeper than before. In the camp no one spoke. The steers ceased their lowing and the only sound was the ripple of the breeze in the leaves. The hum of voices gradually resumed and seemed immensely louder after the preceding silence.

A little later the camp became quiet as the men sought their bedrolls. Two of them emerged from the trees to take their places beside the herd to await the distant dawn. Then after even the restless steers were asleep a giant golden ball rolled over the horizon and bathed the valley with a cold light. But none were there to see its beauty except the two lonely night herders. And so, outside the reaches of civilization, the life of the drover goes on.

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The Fruits of Labor

The big black clouds in the southwest were fast approaching. As the grasshoppers in the stubble of the hay field hopped about them, the three men worked harder loading and placing the heavy bales of hay on the large wagon. A toad hopped out of the way just before a big wheel of the tractor rolled over his previous hiding place. There would be room on the wagon for the hay, but if they did not hurry, the men would have to take a good soaking to save the last few bales in the field.

There had been no rain for two weeks now but the skies had been threatening for days. This would probably just be a summer thundershower, wet enough to ruin the hay and stop all work for a few days but not wet enough to help the parched corn. But it would, maybe, tide the corn over until the next rain.

There were only a few more bales to go but already the tractor driver could feel a drop of rain on his bare chest now and then. As the rain began to pelt down the men worked faster. The rain was beginning to pour as the last bale hit the wagon bed. As the wagon set off for the hay shed at an unusually hurried pace the men had a chance to look about them.

The cool rain beat upon their bare chests and backs as the lightning flashed and the thunder roared in the sky.

They drove the tractor into the shed and stood in the doorway watching the rain. Close to the horizon a lone ray of sunlight streaked down from the golden edge of a cloud.

The rain beat down on the tin roof of the shed as they unloaded the hay and by the time they finished the rain had stopped. Their backs glistening with sweat they stood outside the shed and marveled at the scene before them. The clouds were broken now and tinged with the golden light of the sun. There was a fresh clean smell in the air. A buzzard floated lazily over the fields. Droplets of water dropped off the tree beside the shed and reflected the sun's light.

And these were the fruits of labor.

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Dreams of Another Life

or a Voice Crying in the City

by Duane Bristow
October 1966

"I dream and dream with lids half shut,
the moonlight in my eyes"

As I sit in my cell of a hotel room I dream of days gone by and of a far land, a land of sunshine and babbling streams, of the cries of crows and the silent fall of giant flakes of snow, of a hundred million things of beauty far beyond the wildest imaginings of you city dwellers, you scurrying, restless, close-packed people in a never ending search for the peace you have lost.

Outside my window I hear the clashing of gears, the shouts of men, and the hum of air conditioners. This will continue through the night until the morning hours. And I dream of standing in a field of freshly mowed hay under the ethereal light of a full moon or under the mysteries of the ancient patterns of stars beyond number stretching into the beginning of time. I feel the coolness of the night. I smell the sharp sweetness of the hay. I am uplifted by the grandeur and the silence until I can sense the presence of God.

Oh, ye who call yourselves men and the sons of men, why do you so crowd yourselves together between walls of towering buildings which shut out the sun, the moon, the stars, and the open sky? Why do you live this artificial life with artificial lights? Why must you have wheels? Will not your legs work? Why do you breathe this dust, this smoke, and smog? What good are your white shirts and your ties, your gold-headed cane and your businesslike air? If this is happiness, then I beg of my God, "Please never let me be happy."

Yes, why am I here in this room? Why have I left the land of my birth, the land from which my strength comes? Here, indeed, is my job. Here I get the money which feeds and clothes me. Here is freedom from physical wants. And here my mind and soul will die as in a cage. Will I trade happiness for security? What good is it to me if my life is secure? What good is life without happiness?

Man was made to bake his bread, hunt his food, and live his life under an open sky. This city life is foreign. Its values are material and superficial. Man was made to stand tall in the storm while the lightning flashes around him to light the darkness of the night. He was made to step lightly along a forest trail amidst the slanting rays of the sun with his head held high and his shoulders back. He was made to breathe fresh mountain air and to drink clear, cold, spring water.

So in my hotel room I dream. Of a nest of young hawks on a high mountain cliff, of the flight of an eagle, of the howl of a wolf, of the early morning bite of frost in the air. Of a mountainside of autumn color, of a deep still pool hidden in a valley creek, of a deer testing the air currents. Of a fresh bucket of spring water, of a summer shower. Of cedars bending beneath the weight of last night's snow, of the warmth of a pot-bellied stove, of a garden free of weeds. Of the smell of wood smoke and frying bacon, of the ring of an ax on a fall morning, of quiet walks in a silent wood.

And tomorrow I will leave the city for a cabin on a hill. For the home of a man.

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by Duane Bristow

A soft breeze moved the yellow leaves of the big maple tree slowly to and fro. In the tall red and yellow zinnias growing beside the porch a bee droned lazily. Overhead small white clouds drifted as though pushed by a giant invisible hand. The green mountain was speckled with red and gold. A solitary hawk circled slowly over the fields which were covered with the blossoms promising seeds for many plants next year.

I walked back through the thirsty fields which had not had rain for over a month. The cattle grazed quietly on a field of green stretching like a blanket over the rolling hills. The sun slowly sank behind the western mountain and the clouds above the mountain's crest were like red fish scales scattered over the heavens.

The hawk had gone and in its place was a plane, its tail catching the last feeble rays of the setting sun. I drove the cattle slowly back to the barn and, after I had fed them, I stood for a moment on the hill where the old barn was silhouetted against the sky. The barn's electric lights tried vainly to compete with the millions of lanterns God had hung in the sky. The lights of a neighbor's house seemed like warm spots of friendliness in the darkness.

As I walked back into the barn my nostrils were assailed by the scent of new mown hay. Letting the cattle out of their stalls I thought of the hot supper awaiting me, and as I hastened my steps toward the house a falling star seemed to be waving good night.

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The Awakened One and the Blind

by Duane Bristow
Summer 1966

A man once, in hurrying along his road, chanced to spy a bed of roses hidden under a bushel for his perception was keen. The man picked one of the roses and enjoyed its fragrance as he went along his way. Further along the road the man met a group of blind men hastening to find a thorn. In fear, lest the roses should be trampled by the blind in their haste, the man drew one of the blind men aside and described the rose to him letting him smell and feel it.

The blind man then asked the way to this bed of roses and, after being told, persuaded his companions to search with him for the roses and forget their thorn. But alas, the blind man, not having himself a clear picture of a rose, and his companions also being blind, was unable to describe the beauty of the rose nor could he tell them just where to find the roses. So they did not know when the came upon the bed of roses and they trampled them into the ground. After searching for a time the men found a thorn and, thinking it was a rose, were saddened because the thorn did not approach the beauty of the rose which had been described to them.

Thus, it is that only sadness can follow when the blind lead the blind.

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The Flaming Heart

by Duane Bristow

...and the greatest and most precious Gods of all are the Gods of Life and Love.

The close-cut grass made no sound as the soft moccasins of the man and the woman approached the brow of the hill. Below them, in the valley, their sacred home was flooded by the light of the full moon. On the top of the hill he slipped his shirt off revealing fine sun-bronzed muscles as if in contrast to his kind and simple face.

Slowly, one-by-one, she unfastened the buttons of her white blouse and let it fall beside his shirt. She stood there, her golden hair dancing in the moonlight and her proud face held upward as if reaching for the very stars. The mild spring wind caressed her bare breasts as she breathed the blossom laden air. Her strong brown arms were raised upward as if paying homage to a God only she could know. Her skirt billowed around her smooth, brown legs as she stood facing him under the starry universe.

They both walked forward and embraced each other as somewhere across the desert a coyote howled his lonely song. The could each feel the warmth of the other's bare breast as they stood alone and proud in the moonlight and as their lips met the mysteries and secrets of time itself were laid open before them.

...and indeed theirs was a love that was greater than love.

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Last revised February 6, 1996.

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