Pastoral IV


O shepherdess, you are Nefertiti
lousy with blue faience scarabs

in the next world. There gold is relieved
of its iconology—wheat fields

whistling at harvest, amulet, heavenly
amanuensis who writ the balance

of the eternal scale—and everyone
in your township left

cooing at dumb mineral. Because
your whole life has been spent

learning and learning there’s no way
to mend one’s earthly vocation

or the fissure that permits the hill
to rise above the valley. The grotesque

birth rituals of your enduring,
your collared people. And you

know nothing of deep alluvium,
subaerial deposits excavation

could yield, or how the striated rock
girding the gentry in their baroque houses

furrows like that ancient sea.
And when the floodwaters rise again

the houses will wash down
into the valley and your flock

in the valley will wash down
to the sea you have taken on

faith is there and it will be nothing
like sunlight washing down

the brow of the poor. And it is not me
speaking to you. It never was.