Binoculars erased the cheer in that image.
I had mistaken hooves for small birds,
the swell of a pelt for a partridge.
Enlarged, a wide curl of ribs
grasped at air. Nearby a zipper of bones
topped by a neck, once able to turn
at the stir of a leaf, rose to rebuke
the long legs that failed;
when the mountain lion pounced
(or was it coyote?)
those legs could do no more
than pound empty space.
Often I hear howls and wails
rise past the tall eucalyptus that border
the field where deer come to browse.
Each day I scan from my window of safety
that patch where wind sweeps long grass
over ivory ribs, vertebrae, skull.
My thoughts, caught on an Irish breeze,
unfurl from the car's open window
flow over green fields
around rocks that look like sheep
and sheep that look like rocks
white and gray mounds
sprinkled random and leaderless
on the heathery hills
These are the ways sheep differ from stones:
they rise on black spindle legs
hobble about, nibble on grass
raise tails to drop a mass of black shot
sing occasional notes of mournful protest
From the wild crisscross of its eye
a sheep stares sidewise
suspicious of any new form
that darkens the landscape
retreats from man or machine
like a child on its first day of school
What is it they want?
Am I doing this right?
I have much in common with sheep.
Peggy Heinrich's poems have appeared in Verdad, Future Cycle, and the new renaissance and many other small press journals. Her books A Minefield of Etceteras and Sharing the Woods showcase her longer poems. She has also published a collection of her tanka, Forward Moving Shadows, and a collection of her haiku, Peeling an Orange, both with photographs by John Bolivar. She has studied with Ellen Bass, Robert Bly, Carl Sesar and others. A long-time resident of New York and Connecticut, she now lives in Santa Cruz, California.