Tom Swearingen

Oregon horseman Tom Swearingen tells stories of the people and land of the American West through original cowboy poetry that is often inspired by his own experiences and observations from the saddle. Tom brings his stories to life with rhythm and rhyme and a style that makes him a popular performer at western music and cowboy poetry festivals throughout the West including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV. He is a two-time winner of the National Finals Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Contest, and was named 2019 Male Poet of the Year by the International Western Music Association. Nearly thirty of Tom’s poems have been published in cowboy poetry anthologies and publications. He has recorded three live concert albums, each a finalist for Cowboy Poetry Album of the Year. A book of Tom’s poetry is currently being illustrated with publication scheduled later in 2020. For more on Tom see oregoncowboypoet.com.

Working on: 

I’m very pleased to see a book of my poetry that has been “in the works” for the last two years is nearly ready for printing. An award-winning artist is completing illustrations to accompany many of the book’s 45 poems. Titled Reflection, the book is due out this fall. In the meantime, my latest album Language of the Land is doing well on western music radio stations. It debuted in Feb, 2019 as the #1 played cowboy poetry CD, and has been in the top 10 ever since, currently at #2.

Writing prompt:

While most of my poems come out of personal experience, I’ve also been prompted to start writing based on my imagination being “spurred” by a piece of art or photography. What has brought that rider and ponied horse to the water hole pictured? Who is that figure knocking on the cabin door and why is he there on this occasion? Of the five horses in the pasture why do two of them have their ears turned to the far tree line? And so on. The resulting poems follow.

REFLECTION
© 2020, Tom Swearingen

A ponied palomino
Pauses briefly from its drink.
Content to rest a moment
While the rider stops to think

Back on hard miles covered
Since this morning before light.
And those to still be ridden
'Til their circle's done tonight

Eighteen miles or maybe more
Of dry sage and rock and crust.
This water stop a blessing
To cool off and cut the dust.

Soft ripples radiating
From his sorrel’s sipping lips,
Distort trio's reflection
To the rhythm of his sips.

                  ###

THE VISIT
© 2015, Tom Swearingen

He knew his knock would someday not be answered.
The day would come there'd be no stir within.
No creak of steps on aged wooden floor boards,
No lifting of the latch, no "come on in.”

No giving ear again to his grand stories
Of bad ones rode, and following the creed.
His mem'ries of a life well-lived and cherished,
No "wish I had," regret, or unmet need.

No sitting in the flicker light of candles,
Him hearing of old times, new hopes, new fears.
A future that's now lonelier and harder
With each new sunrise, morning that appears.

Each winter 'bout this time he paid a visit
To sit and listen, look in on his friend.
The last few years both knowing, but not saying
Each visit brought them closer to the end.

This year he knows his knock will bring no answer.
He knew that when he came around the bend.
No chimney smoke, no window light, no footprints.
There would be no more visits with his friend.

The stillness of the cabin's what first struck him.
And then, the note there for him on the wall.
Said, "I'm so glad you've come again to see me
So sorry that I've missed your final call.

"But knowing one day soon I will not waken,
I leave this note to greet you if I've passed.
I'm thankful for your friendship, always have been.
I knew you'd be here for me 'til the last.”

                         ###

IN THE SHADOW OF TREE LINE
© 2018, Tom Swearingen

The gray was first to hear it,
With the bay not far behind.
The others quickly turning
To discover what they'd find   

Across the open pasture
In the shadow of tree line.
They look for any movement,
Or some other kind of sign

To tell them if it's danger,
Or if something more benign.   
Something that they've seen before,
That their memories can align

With instinct and behavior
When familiar, something known
To not be predatory
That will leave them all alone.

Until then, they are fearful
Of the sound they can't define
Across the open pasture
In the shadow of tree line.

On the edge of fight or flight,
They sense something isn't right.
So 'til they know for certain
They will stand with ears upright,

Their eyes and nostrils scanning
For some motion or a scent   
To tell them in an instant   
If to run or be content

With dropping guard and grazing,
Knowing everything is fine
Across the open pasture
In the shadow of tree line.