Jan/Feb 2012 Poetry

Little Bo Peep

by Andrew Morris

Little Bo Peep

A few yards away,
ewes drop their newborns into the sagebrush.
The rest of the herd loiters and masticates,
their behinds matted with feces.
I am reading them poems
under a pestering sun
trying to outdo that toothless bellwether,
but bells are bells
and my poems aren't ringing.

Here's the poet:
atop a gray mare
unable to sing
or bleat
tending words
while the whole herd
heads for water.

Not following orders,
the old mare withdraws to uneven ground.
She wants to cast me off.
Her ears pointed backwards.
The stench of her farts will not wither.
Her urine sloshes on the capstone.

Everything about this old woman is fervent.

I keep telling myself
this is radiance.

And when you come out of the brush
with fresh placentas dangling from both hands
with a rolled cigarette bit between your teeth
dressed in your black denim and overcoat
looking like an emaciated Johnny Cash
pushing profanities at me from your lips
like a ventriloquist—

I know that each moment, if I'm careless enough,
is like breaking a bone
and instead of pain
there is laughter
and astonishment.


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