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The Sheep Who Fastened the Sky to the Ground

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After I found out that you were a sheep,
it was always afternoon, and I stood trembling
at the pasture fence, my hands full of dandelion
and the longer grasses. How could I call you

to come near? We had no names and only
this place, this sun, the hill and its limitless sky
held together by your gentle outline as you leaned
toward tufts of grass. How beautiful you were,

so still, so close to moving. I gathered
bouquets of clover, strung violets from the fence slats.
Sometimes I whispered, but the words disappeared
before I knew what they were or what they meant.   

Once I saw darkness. I remember my eyes were open
and there was nothing, only black, and my heart aching
as I felt for my face and I was still human. While I cried,
stars came and traced sheep in the sky and the voice that knew

never spoke. I fell asleep mistaking the scent of hay
for your breath. To wake once from the sleep in which
you are held, in which your name emanates without utterance
from the being that cradles you—There is no other sleep.

Now it is always afternoon. How can I call you
when we have no names? I search
for the clover and violets. There are always enough.
My shadow is always the same length and shaped

with arms and legs. Between us, the distance of field is green
and exact; the sun gleams from its cloudless height—I know
that there is enough time, that there is always enough.   
Please. Come to me, remember me: undo this world.

Oni Buchanan, "The Sheep Who Fastened the Sky to the Ground" from What Animal. Copyright © 2003 by Oni Buchanan.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.
Source: What Animal (University of Georgia Press, 2003)
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The Sheep Who Fastened the Sky to the Ground

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  • Poet and concert pianist Oni Buchanan was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She earned a BA at the University of Virginia, an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and an MA in piano performance from the New England Conservatory of Music.
    Buchanan’s formally inventive poetry incorporates polyphonic, mathematical, and typographic elements into mosaics of ecstatic, searching beauty. In a statement for the Poetry Society of America, Buchanan traced the arc of the first poem she loved, Edward Gorey’s “The Object-Lesson,” whose tunneling and blossoming influenced the inventive unfolding that is a signature of Buchanan’s work. Buchanan praised Gorey’s piece for “how selectively withheld information combined with selectively presented details (and the placement of those details in the poem, the manner in which they surface, the timing of their appearance, their endurance, their disappearance) endowed objects, people, landscapes with a kind of radiant shifting, mutability, and depth which made...

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