My footsteps on dry grass
send them scattering, of one mind
and one body off-white, head to head.
The seven sheep stand so close
that the rest of the world
outside this fence is diminished by them:
one moving whitish rock
in an Irish Zen garden.
Can they hear me thinking
above the spiritual noise the sunshine makes
in a dry April? Sometimes
there's snow this late, the housekeeper said.
Axel the brown neighbor dog
stands pointed toward the brush,
some distant ancestor in his mix
telling him to do so. He gives
up on me finally, seated in one place,
our walk apparently over.
For I'm here with my notebook, sketching sheep.
If it's good enough for the brush and easel crowd,
why not a pen and paper man?
I see each black, nose-prominent face,
rippling jaw content with grass,
unimportant eyes I can't make out from here.
I draw one white fur body with stepping stool legs
lost six paces from the others,
a sun to their clouds, a change to their weather.
I can’t ignore the lake beyond,
that gray silver band aligned on the horizontal:
Across the lake a car door
cracks closed through
the bee buzz and bird whistle
and blank wind through leaves of rhododendron and holly.
Some sheep bleat and baa, but from another pasture out of sight.
I wait for the driver to bait a hook lakeside,
become only a man
fishing. The dog's snout is on my page.
He sees scent and not the coming evening.
Richard Terrill, a former student and instructor at UW-Eau Claire, is the author of two collections of poems and winner of the Minnesota Book Award; as well as two books of creative nonfiction, and winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for nonfiction. View more of Richard's work.