Because He Cannot Be Human, and She Cannot Be Donkey.
His name is Jacob, his fur an unruly thatch.
My sister is in love with him, brings him carrots,
apples and such. He lives in a field down the road
in Starksboro, Vermont. They are neighbors.
I wonder if he dreams about her at night,
if he’d like to snuggle with her at the old Mill House
on cold evenings. He reaches so far into his barreled chest
for a voice to greet her that it must take years
for such braying as his, a voice filled with such sadness
that only momentarily they will meet like this; two
reaching across the fence to hold, to stay held, to be
steadied by what fierce yearning as brings opposites together.
In the beginning there was promise.
We lived together in harmony,
took only what was needed and that was sufficient.
The Shepherd walked with his sheep,
animal spirit commingling with human spirit,
breath of the sacred between them.
We suffered when we stopped seeing
everything as part of us,
when we thought human greater,
therefore, separate and superior.
The Shepherd set down his water horn,
gave up daily treks over green hills.
He forgot his thirst for clear streams.
Forgot what the earth told his feet.
This division split our spirits,
and the animals cried for their people.
A fracture grew between nations.
At night the animals pined for us to enter their lives,
but we’d forgotten the wholeness of the world,
and for this the animals continue to weep.
Published in, in part: The Moth, Ireland; Sukoon, Volume 5; Mojave River Review; the New Verse News; Hawaii Pacific Review; Sequestrum; South Dakota Review; Naugatuck River Review; Lullwater Review; The Kentucky Review; Blue Fifth Review; The Main Street Rag; Clackamas Literary Review; 22 wagons by Danijela Trajković, Istok Akademia, an anthology of contemporary Anglophone poetry; California Quarterly; Poetry International and Fugue. Three-time Pushcart nominee. New work due out 2019 in New American Writing, The Kerf. Henning taught through California Poets in the Schools, received several CAC grants and taught poetry workshops through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program. Henning’s third poetry book Cathedral of the Hand published 2016 by Finishing Line Press.