When she is not there, he runs his rough fingers
over the lips he cannot feel with his working skin –
his sun-stained, dip-dried, sheep-tending hands.
His mouth feels what his hands cannot.
Nothing is ever tender enough for him,
save the newborn lambs he sends
to their hideous deaths; a deep division in him:
Half of him understands her. Half does not.
The lambs fall into the chasm between.
Wool scents the brief and artless
kisses he gives her , meeting and parting.
Boy's kisses, laced with lanolin.
One day he hopes to hold her
to his heart for just a little longer.
But his arms will not go around her.
He is too large.
He does not see that she slips to his side
naturally, for his one-armed embrace.
Turns her cheek to his shy face with pleasure.
Does not reprove him, nor wish to,
for those soft stolen seconds on her lips that
she knows last for nights in his virginal bed.
While she is kept awake in her chamber
by the bleating of lambs, he counts sheep
in the fields he inherited, under the moon.
It is left to her to be the shepherd.
"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep,
if he loses one of them, would not leave
the ninety nine in the pasture
to look for the one who is lost?"
What loss each time he leaves her!
Lost, too, the moments between.
Anxious for the time that is left to them,
they look for each other ceaselessly
But for that brief and binary tenderness,
do not find common ground.
She longs to hold him to her heart one day
for just a few seconds longer.
But her arms will not go round him.
Like the lambs, she is just too small.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance