Kevin Goodan

For Llamas

If you want to understand the beauty of llamas
you have to struggle with the dead.
You have to slip your arms beneath their ribs,
lock your hands together
and stagger with them
across a concrete floor out into cold wind,
through thistles, brown and brittle cheet grass,
your head against their collarbone
your face so close to their face
that you breathe for the both of you,
your breath glistening the fine hairs along a cheek
as you use your weight against their weight
and skin your knuckles
and the bridge of their nose
on a pile of rough-cut hemlock boards
and catch their elbow on a nail on a post
and curse when your arms get shaky
and your lungs burn
you drop them
and leave them lying on the gravel
let freezing rain glaze their awkward lips
and back the rusty blue Ford pickup up
and let it idle
crank the defrost
scrape the ice from the windshield
and drop the tailgate
and pick them up again
and lay them down again
in crusted snow and bailing twine in back,
their head resting on the spare
and throw a blue tarp on,
strap it down with shroud line
and throw a few heavy boards on for weight
and rest a while, listening to the AM
it is then that the llamas
come towards you
from the back of the field
through the snowdrift that remains,
pass the lean-to and the barn,
past the feeders
and the new brown salt blocks in the salt houses,
past the round pen for breaking horses
and they will move without shadows
and you will know the ice in their matted hair
and you will smell them
as they smell you
as they lean their necks across the fence
and they will breathe out
and you will see it
and they will look at you
with their eyes filled with pastures of another world
and you not knowing what it is you are waiting for.

Kevin Goodan
For Llamas is reprinted from In The Ghost-House Acquainted (Alice James Books, 2004).