like a word emboldened in an empty book
or a pearl, dark silver, loose
in chamois, pressed into my palm one Christmas…
His thumb upon my thumb, his eyes
on my eyes and everything is understood: the trespass,
the lamb, the body that will come
to loathe itself,
for even in moonlight, black lamb cannot hide,
cannot fade into the chalky path
as white sheep do.
Black has a singular weight. Painted,
achieves luminous transparency, so that any pistol,
any night sea, shines plainly.
By such proof, my lamb was a phantom. Its kink
and dread reflected nothing.
Profane this landscape, my widening
pupil, drossy with grass charred and spiked short after
a fire, maggots milky in the abattoir’s eaves,
black lamb deep in troublesome clover,
alone, quaking beneath dwarf pines.
“Black Lamb” first appeared in Crazyhorse, Number 68.