by Lisa Lopez Smith
Moving the Sheep
sometimes there’s a fear-filled lamb
taking off in the opposite direction of sense,
braying madly, as if the earth
had suddenly started spinning in reverse,
and he concludes the gate must be at the other end
of the mountain. I hike up behind him
to where the flocks scorch-earthed the grass
under the trees clustered like witches,
the clouds soft and undefined
as if a misguided watercolorist had spilled
the yellow butterflies, white ones, brown ones
flickering about the fields of October’s
wildflowers, each bud waiting to burst forth,
each one in its place. Observation,
the best tool of the shepherd,
otherwise only guesses into sheep psychology.
My lamb has skittered to the back fence, and I know
his fears are as imaginary as my own.
I flush him out down below to the flock,
he gallops and hollers, angry at my interference.
No one ever said the lost sheep was grateful,
but such is the burden of the sought. The solitary
hawk above us. This tilting fence edged with barbed wire.
Quiet, and oblivious to lostness, the sheep graze on.
I open my eyes. Held
in the gentle slope of the Mother,
sky wide above, the tree branches bare
The afternoon sun ripples through
the hair of the children, they suddenly laugh,
without pretense, unaware of their airy beauty;
the starling racket from the branches of the laurel
the way the breeze washes off the heat of the day;
the way the moon rises like a smile;
the six-year-old’s way of telling looping, long stories
and I listen, just to hear his voice.
That time I stared into the chasm, like yellow eyes of a tiger,
And knew what it was to be mortal and small.
What it is to be alive. Dying so many times over,
the wounds that become scars
and my lover’s hand in mine,
even sweeter than a decade ago.
And this vision,
even clearer than ever.