Helen Wickes

November Chill and All the Animals

The goat man’s moved his herd
across the valley, and it resembles a cloud
drifting across and chewing the buckskin hillside.

The oak trees squat low as if afraid of the sky.
Whatever breathed us here is breathing us back today,
which feels like being gathered,
whether we like it or not.

First curry, then brush. Then burrs from the mane,
and the tail untangled by hand.
This black hair is wrapped around my wrist—
past the dead deer slung by the fence,
and all the goats not seeming to mind.

With a tobacco wad in the left side of his mouth,
five nails in the other,
Joel the farrier is saying that his mule
won’t cross creeks. Joel asks
if I like goat—no. What’s tougher, he asks,
elk or antelope? I say that antelope needs marinade.

He pares the hoof back to a naked greeny white.
Such small feet. The warm breath of the horse
rummaging my clothes. One crow, then another,
calls out, and three of us stop to listen.

Helen Wickes lives in Oakland, California, where she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. Sixteen Rivers Press published her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, in 2007. Her poem, "November Chill and All the Animals,” is from an unpublished manuscript called Wait For Me.
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