Today's poem is by James Najarian

With the Herd

Late in the afternoon, the goats ascend
the stubbled hills in strictest precedence:
first, the "queen," the strongest of the does,
then each goat in order of her rank,
trailed by her skipping kids-then yearlings,
and at the end the old, complaining ones.
The herd will linger near the tractor paths
nimbly lipping kernels from bare roots,
craning their earthbound necks for maple leaves,
dowsing for dandelion and dock. Most evenings
they return, in the same, now satiated line.

But some desks, the riches are too much for them;
they squander hours with their relentless mouths.
The sun drops anonymous into the damp
and they find themselves abandoned in blind fields—
while you, indoors, are waiting for the thump
of their returning hooves-and hearing nothing.
You must give up on your accustomed walls
to hoof and blunder through the black alone.
Flashlight in hand and calling to no answer,
you shine your flimsy beam on forest edges,
illuminating vines and sumac, until
you stumble on them unexpectedly
silent and watchful, clustered in a circle,
the nannies fortressing the kids within,
just as their ancestors must have, outside
the tents of Ishmael or Abraham.
Stop calling them. Stand still. They will not stir
until you turn the light on your known face,
their weak eyes recognize and understand.
Now, rising as a body, they will follow you,
grateful and hushed as only they can be.
Together, you will find your way back home.

Copyright © 2009 James Najarian All rights reserved
from West Branch
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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