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.