Livestock Man
by Amy Hale Auker



Pen-L Publishing, 2018. ISBN 978-1-683-13156-4.
Reviewed by Jazz Jaeschke
Posted on 09/12/2018

Poetry; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

These poems from Amy Hale Auker will dispel any notions of ranch life as escape. The hard work of daily living rings through again and again. But also coming through is Auker's intimacy with nature, seen in animals, vegetation, and weather in the sweeping openness and isolation of the great outdoors. The reader opens to new awareness, to appreciation of one woman's convictions, courage, diligence.

Auker lives a life typically considered man's domain. She shares this life with her husband, and the poems reflect the experiences of both. Each poem shares a snippet of Auker's daily life, reflecting never-ending chores mixed with ever-recurring gratitude. Auker composes in her head while on horseback, somehow later wrangling time to record her encounters. Her poems are laced with self reflections unique to her lifestyle but readily grasped. Excerpts (from separate poems) provide a sampling of the flavor:

For it is often through miles and testing
That a girl can find her strong,
And sometimes, the most luminous beauty
Comes from days that are hard and long.

The wild is singing a simple song in seven shades of complicated. It
sings of lost and loss and light and lissome wind. It moans of dark
and dripping and dank and draining and devils in the night.
Something sacred this way comes.

Teach me to see
Beyond my nation,
Beyond my appetite
More than tracks in the dust,
the barefoot bear foot,
To see past the words
or agendas
or ones and zeros
or ancient Jungian bleed

Tomorrow we start this cow and bull hunt.
It's catch and release every year.
But you couldn't pay me to stay at home
When most of what I love is out here.

Finally, from Auker's poem "Sweetly Singing," a longer excerpt:

The alarm sings at 4 a.m.
Ours is a work song—
    a song of doing, with hands and hearts—
       a heartbeat song.

It is an I-N-G song—
    a song of rising, going, growing,
       moving, mounting, being there
where the work is always waiting

Ours is a living song,
    a defining song, a refining song—
       trial by fire—
a some days are hard in four/four time song.
It is a cycle song, a season song,
a never-ending circle song—
       with weather. And death

My recommendation? Read this book (even if poetry is not your preference) for its glimpse into the realities of living and working in the vast outdoors: hardships and benefits comingled with vivid insights.


Amy Hale Auker lives on a ranch in Arizona's Santa Maria Mountains, where she and her husband share the role tagged "livestock man." Auker has published two works of creative nonfiction (Rightful Place won the WILLA Award) and two novels. Livestock Man is Auker's first collection of poems.

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