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Where us stepped a water sprung
to leaf and green and goose crept round
and eyed us, with a soft grog, grog
and a nodding
each one big as a swollen dove
with hatching spot on the breast.
Us saw the speckled egg
unhidden for the taking.
Then horses low and red
came slow for us to ride
tame with neck outstretched for hands
the eye cast down and soft
and nuzzled forth and bent for us to climb.
Fire at night closed us round
with creatures us once killed
and now would live among.
From branch shaked out and speckled egg
us made new eating, not to harm
the ones of hoof and horn
and ground was dug and seeded
steering those to plow who were ours tame.
Never counter, day and night
sun and rain took up the work
and gave a take of all that fruited
ripe and sweet from green.
Us lived, and us of all, as to a light
and drinking from the sun
and night kept us as would a pelt
of highest fur, the stars its eyes around.
Joan Houlihan is the author of four books of poetry, including The Us, The Mending Worm, Hand-Held Executions: Poems and Essays. Ay, a sequel to The Us, is forthcoming in 2013. Her critical essays on contemporary poetry are archived online at Bostoncomment.com, and she is a contributing editor to Contemporary Poetry Review.
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