Shepherds in the Night

By Tracina Jackson-Adams

We weren't expecting shepherds,
and nearly tripped over them, since
we were looking at the sky. There haven't
been sheep here for a dog's age, but shepherds
have never required sheep
to guard, just wolves
to guard them from.

A bitter night, on which the stars
could pierce like elfshot, burning cold,
and John pointed and said to me,
"There's Vega," and was corrected
by a shepherd, who, after all, would know.
Shepherds were experts on the stars
before astronomy had a name.

I said as much, and the shepherd's face
yawned into a grin. She said, "Would you like
to hear the wolves?" And I said yes, of course, because
how often do you get to stand
with a pack of shepherds on a starry hill
and have them call to wolves for you?

The first shepherd howled, the others
joined in, and from over the dark line
I thought must be a ridge came a chorus
in reply, and all the hair
on my body stood on end
at two harmonies exactly the same.

Shepherds grinned, tongues lolling, teeth flashing,
eyes glinting green, and we swallowed
hard and thanked them hastily,
and hurried home, careful not to stray
from the path for fear of wolves
or shepherds in the night.

 

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Tracina Jackson-Adams lives in the Snow Belt and actually likes it, in a masochistic kind of way. Her poetry also appears in The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Star*Line, and The Modern Art Cave. She has also had fiction published in Strange Horizons.