Thursday, February 16, 2017

Shepherding in the Westfjords

(An old poem just found.)

I came to the Westfjords to work harder, get in shape, save money;
just the usual things – except, perhaps, to visit Gísli Súrsson’s murder site –
but I didn’t think I’d be shepherding
with men in ski pants and fishermen’s jumpers.
One of them is five hundred metres up the side of Arnardalur, Eagle Dale,
with three white dots who remember summer’s freedom
but still run themselves into the farmer’s yard,
where we, the chasers, meet later for legs of lamb with rhubarb jam.
“Hold the line,” yells a man, “and keep close to the river,
while I take the small rise on the other side”;
the river is the only clarity in a valley of bog, fog, and blueberries,
the company of sheep still two hundred metres away.
But one old dear, apart from the others on a spit of stones,
looking like a torn pillow on cheap barbecue legs,
stamps me to be gone, to leave the winter to herself alone,
spare her my good will.
I huff, yelp, and whoosh in reply, step closer, jump, walk around,
I look friendly and jolly and hold my ground,
I tell her that the others have gone ahead; she kicks,
no, yes, no, come on!