The border collies are knackered now, all day chasing grumpy sheep. They slink behind the rocks, peek heads up, avoid the work. They do not know the blood that seeps through the muck of runoff. It flows into the glen. These dogs are young, born to the obsession of their craft. They do not know the burning but'n'bens, thatched roofs ablaze, bodies fueling fire. They know the present only. Not the past. Not the baggage of this history. Not the highland cattle's red fur scorched and curled.
There are muddy hooves that jut into the air. There are gutted bellies. Sheep in rotting piles. A stench. There is raw-rooted anger. There are men and women torn and numb.
Sheep dogs, still in the here and now, raise their heads above the crags. They know they need to work, bend the sheep with come-bye's and away's. Steady. Steady. Not like revenge. Take your time. Take your time, until the last lambs are safely down, clumped together, moving in a mass toward their pens. The dog's tongues flop from their mouths. They're knackered. Eyes alert. Just a stare to move the herd. These dogs know not the moments of betrayal. Slaughter points on maps. The clearances. They know a day's good work, a job well done, some food. They know quiet corners with openings where they can watch their sheep.
Previously published in Tears, The Same Music, Poems form Ocean Wilderness, editied by Patrick Lane, Leaf Press, Nov. 2009, Monday's Poem Leaf Press April 2010, WordWorks Federation of BC Writers 2010, Poemata, Canadian Poetry Association July 2010
Bette had a way of dancing when she got into rye. She'd start up in the middle of the cabin all by herself. She'd feel the beat move to Lenny Welch the spinning of the forty-five, Since I Fell For You. She'd sway, hold her hand a little high and to the side like Auntie Mame without a cigarette, invite us all to dance coax us to our feet, picked me the shy one, dragged me up, moved me about the floor where in a swollen beat of time I lost all inhibitions, felt the music take me out of the prison I was in. Then Malaquena, its haunting Andalusian notes twisted the room into distorted shapes where I could conquer windmills, fight dragons, fall in love with Dulcinea with every pure plucked string.
Previously published in The Tower Journal Aug. 2009 Sept. Issue
Beneath the house are buried bones little children of the self that could have been just beneath the uneven concrete floor, beside the workbench where the hammer sits, where the leather belt hangs limply from a hook.
The bones are brittle now, lost their flesh, worms have worked a magic over time and no one knows about these bones, not the hand that held the hammer, not the fingerprint still evidence upon the belt. These bones are silent now. They only haunt the self that lost them long ago.
Previously published in The Toronto Quarterly Aug. 2009