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.
This poem first appeared in the Cumberland Poetry Review (2004).
Used here with permission of the author’s literary estate.