After I gave blood tonight at the Marshall YMCA, I sat and ate cookies with some of the other blood donors. One woman who lived on a farm, talked about her pets--dogs, goats and llamas. It reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Philip Dacey. I enjoy the narrative of the poem, I admire the craft, the way Phil uses form and rhyme, and I love the thread of the poem, where it takes me, how it opens up at the end, makes me want to be more aware of the llamas in my own life.
LLAMA DAYS Because today I walked a llama back home, I have a new standard for all my coming days. Just minutes with the llama made this one a poem of kindly wonders, long-necked woolly praise.
I'd been raking leaves, bent forward, head down, eyes on my country acre, so that when I raised them and saw at my driveway's end a llama standing tall there, checking me out,
I was all stammer and gawk and disbelief until I thought of Leon, my neighbor half- a-mile away, whose land was mostly zoo, menagerie, whatever, I called him Doo-
little, the animal doctor himself, though Leon was no vet, just one big heart for anything that walked on paw, web, or hoof-- goat, peacock, sheep, horse, donkey, mink, hare, hart.
But llama? I'd never noticed one before, though no doubt my surprise at seeing him was matched by his at seeing me--or more than matched, he being lost, freedom become
a burden twice as bad as any bars, so much so panic struck and he turned back, high-stepping it onto the road, two-lane, tarred, and I saw the headline, "Llama killed by truck."
Dropping the rake, I raced to rescue him, who now stood frozen, straddling the centerline, looking this way and that--oh, too much room, too little clue. I had to herd him to Leon .
With slow approach and arms a traffic cop's, I eased him into action in the lane leading to llama-chow and fell into step beside him--well, sort of, his two to my one.
I talked him down the road, an unbroken string of chatter my invisible halter and rein: “Howyadoin? Where'd you think you were going? A little farther now, big guy. You'll be just fine.”
Luckily, no car came to make him bolt, though I almost wished for one, wanting someone to see us, like old friends out for a stroll, shoulder to shoulder in the morning sun.
Once we got close enough to what he knew, he was gone, down the right driveway this time, and I was left alone to wave goodbye: “You take care now.” His thanks silent. “You're welcome.”
I don't expect the llama to escape again. Leon 's repaired a fence, no doubt, or gate. So I know tomorrow I'll have to find my own, invent one, a facsimile, and I can't wait.
Already I see him coming like a dream, disguised as odd events, encounters, small dramas worth at least a laugh. Let “He walked his llama home” be my epitaph. I wish you lots of llamas.
I love to play with words. To capture moments on the page. To explore the physical and spiritual geography of what I call "fly-over country." I write from imagination, observation and my own experience of wandering in fly-over country--the literal, physical spaces of my life on the Minnesota prairie and the inner territory of the soul.
I teach writing and serve as the director of the Creative Writing Program at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. I enjoy cooking and traveling with my husband Jim, reading, practicing yoga, playing tennis, biking, hiking and gardening.