for: Katherine Primeau
Take my hand says the sheepherder and I
will tell you how I, daily, navigate this
dirt road twice a day. Familiarity is twice
my living; it is my way although I am
still poor and will never be middle-class,
as you have come to say. When it is evening
and a Spring rain has passed you can see how
the road reflects the hard rain that did not last;
you can see my form in slender patches of water.
I shepherd my sheep, to and fro, in dedicated order.
They are always calm; their wool dedicated to warmth.
My dog is a generous companion; he trots the right of the road
and keeps away the foreign prey. I walk with a cane;
it keeps vigilant guard and manages determined time.
The bare trees in the summer will grow leaves
just as I keep watch against deadly poachers.
Sometimes the shade staves off the harsh critical sun
while I, in my dotage, still longs for a natural son to take my place.
Soon the darkness itself will wrap around me, this truly
one lonely evening, so as your eyes accompany me, this
is the one truth I can tell you for sure,
please know that your visit is pay enough.
About the Author
Herbert Woodward Martin has written nine volumes of poetry. He is a retired professor emeritus from The University of Dayton where he taught a variety of courses including poetry writing. He has edited and read the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar and narrated four of his poems (first recording) attached to William Grant Still’s “Symphony No. 1: The Afro-American” with The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.