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Sheepdog Trials at Bleinau Ffestiniog


At the bottom of the field, like woolly boats,

three sheep appear.  They’re unaware, of course,

that this is a race, and the first one’s gently drifting

off to the left, and another bobbles and floats

the other way, when something—a gale? a force—

tears at them—veers—its direction shifting, shifting—


a black and white Hermes, fur and motion spurred

by a single message, a single mission:  To herd.

A centrifugal ewe like a prodigal yacht

sails out in a stately and leisured trot

but huffily reconsiders, deterred

by the scouring dog; and the second and third


who are heading off—confronted, stop:

he’s there; and the trio slews around,

jibing in unison, parallel.  Then,

in a climax of ecstasy—he drops

suddenly, puddle-flat, onto the ground

and sends the flotilla of sheep to the pen.


And the lumbering trainer, rubber-shod,

closes the gate with his crook and slogs

across to the dog who, you could say, ran

because he was told to.  You could say the man

created the dog.  But no—the dog,

who was made by the wind, is a little god.


Deborah Warren



(c) 2000; originally printed in the Atlanta Review.  Reprinted
by permission of the author.


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