The Ewe Lamb

                 - 2 Samuel 12: 3

I raised my one ewe lamb
as a daughter, fed her
red clover, the last hearts
of my cabbage, offered
her inky lips my cup.
She rested her chin
on my neck at night, her hoofs
on my cloak, her breathing
the wind on the waves
of sleepís pure waters.
Sleep: an animalís word
for bless: hoof of her heart
to the hoof of my heart.
The dusk before her slaughter
we walked together, pauper
and kin, over the meadow.
I sang to her, then
I unstrung the rusted bell
from her collar.

first appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin


I could not bury him, not
by the schoolyardís

sparking forsythia,

or offer him up
to the bored, clear sky,

so I held him as long as the sun
stayed warm on the palm

of a grocery bag, and watched him

shiver to nothing; and
was not sickened

by his crushed tongue and
cracked yellow beak

or his birthless legsí limp ferns

or the wrong way crook of his
his red-knuckled wings,

or the moist, contented lips
of his eyes

or his supple and broken neck
that I stroked

with the bill of my fingernail.

first appeared in The Yale Review


I read to my dog from a take-out menu
so he can sleep. When he tires
of that, I talk to him
about nothing, and when I run out
of things to say, I make up words
to a song with whatever
array of notes and breath streams in

the way the clean wind did
as we rode once, and
I rolled down the window a hair
and he sat up without effort, glossy nose
in the speeding weather, eyes half closed
in the light that whizzed through his fur
like the hands of a friend

who had missed him.

first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly


You too might, in the holiest hour
of your life, allow a yearling bull
to nibble your hair and stroke
your ear with his hay-scented tongue.
If he does these things, draw him close,
let the tolerant wind of his nostrils
pray through your buttonholes.
Take off your mittens
and muss the crimps at the cliff
of his brow as the cold-weather
tear from his sagging eye
dries on its lash-blades; feed him
the crust from your bread, and receive
the blessing of him
as he swings his neck's beam
against your chest with no force,
no force at all.

first appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin


An old blonde dog takes care of me.
I found him starving in the snow.

His face is scarred, his hips protrude.
His joints are stiff. Doddering along,

he lists a bit, and more and more
he is incontinent.

Yet when Iím most alone, he brings me
his old polar bear, the sock

he likes to chew. His white chin fits
my darkest aches, and settles there.

                 for David

My friend is going to kill
his old appaloosa mare next week.
The horse wonít eat, is down
to a few hundred pounds,
all sores and hips.

He and his wife have hired a boy
with a backhoe to cover her up
with the dirtís deep breaths. They know
how many grams of morphine
sheís going to need.

They will let their daughter stay home,
she is old enough. And the mare,
who stands hour by hour in her stall
like a fire-damaged piano
knows all

about frost on the hay,
the achy barn door that reached
as far as it could every single day
with willingness, leading the same
enormous morning in.

first appeared in The Yale Review


My Duck

The duck who followed me home
from the river was not
my duck. It marched along
past the open shops on its own
bright feet. I was just
its messiah. Thrusting its neck
to keep rhythm with each
exclaiming step, it belonged
to itself. I didnít toss flakes of scone
to it, or make those come-hither clicks
with my tongueís thick wing.
I only led it back
to the weary current and waded
straight in, thatís all
I did; then I turned to make sure
that no one had questions.

first appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review


                 for Lee

First I opened her King James Bible
to a Psalm I didnít know
and read to her then I hummed
one old favorite of hers after another
the hymns the Broadway tunes
hoping at least to drown out
the game shows and intercoms just beyond
the great tent of her breathing
and after an hour or more
when her heart was done and dropped shut
and she lay deep and small
a blackening tear at her mouthís lid
I kept right on swabbing
the board of her tongue with sweet lemon Q-tips
and humming as best I could


Walking an Old Woman into the Sea

She doesnít need her bathing cap
but she wants it on, the rubber peony
over one temple, the ear flaps up;

and the scratched yellow goggles
that wonít get wet today
belong right here around her neck.

She canít hear the gullsí beady voices
yack over our sandwich crusts,

or the sea, out late again, tripping home
over its skirts;

and she frets about where I have left
her terrycloth jacket and watch.

But she knows by the popping
of stones and shell bits
under her flip-flops, and by my own

aged hands that grip the slack
elastic waist of her suit,

that this is a swim-day, no matter
how long the water
will have to wait.

first appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review; reprinted in Best of the Web, Dzanc Books 2009

 © Frannie Lindsay.