Sheep Herding [poem] by Madeline Tiger

The moon hung nearly high
a perfect brilliant sliver
like a rocker not rocking
in the greying sky

the Albanians were cooking
their sweet mountains
in a modest kitchen
the tall son’s square shoulders
higher than his father’s

A clarinet concerto played the long
of our walking up and down
the quiet neighborhood
of tilting pavements

A little river ran through
many front yards, showing
mowed green lawns
somewhere daffodils
somewhere purple hyacinth
and all along, forsythia blooming

Our little world can be brighter
in the evening than at noon
when the sky is blinded by
such wild arrivals

Frightening films at home,
nail biters, edge of chair:
a murderer exonerated, a spy
denied, frightened voices crying
while upstairs a keyboard keeps
its own warm counsel

Verlyn Klinkenborg would have sheep
for the sake of the vocabulary
that comes with breeding
and with shearing for
their aromatic wool

I’d like to know how
to type his name
under the moon
then just to hold onto
the few words I need,
guiding them in uncrowded lines
this being my herd,
then to let them go
to make this little world clear.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: this poem includes a reference to Verlyn Klinkenborg; here’s a link to his lovely 2006 garden blog.]

Image by ellenm1 via Flickr Creative Commons

Madeline Tiger’s  recent collections are Birds of Sorrow and Joy: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 (2003), The Earth Which Is All (2008), The Atheist’s Prayer (2010), and From the Viewing Stand, (2011).  Her work appears regularly in journals and anthologies. She has been teaching in state programs and private workshops since 1973 and has been a “Dodge Poet” since 1986. She has five children and seven grandchildren and lives in Bloomfield, NJ, under a weeping cherry tree. Read more at

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