Poem of the Week | March 21, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “hyperpastoral, or parable” by Matty Layne Glasgow!

Matty Layne Glasgow is the author of deciduous qween (Red Hen Press, 2019), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Ecotone, Houston Public Media, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. Matty is a PhD student and the Jeff Metcalf Humanities in the Community Fellow at the University of Utah where he serves as the Writers in the Schools Coordinator and the Editor of Quarterly West.


or parable

On his first night out of
the incubator, a mother
swaddled her newborn

in meadow and flock,
knowing survival is a field
green as tornado sky,

and comfort, a lamb
emerging — hooves stilled
mid-trot on white cloth

by one dark thread pulled
through. Before he could
hold a thing, this offering:

twelve lambs nestled in his
slender arms, twelve fields
covering him with dirt and grass.

And he slept. Then, wherever
he crawled, the flock followed;
when he stood, soft land clutched

in his palm, pasture dragged
behind him, he’d whisper
O, little lambs. He’d whisper

Follow me. A fidelity so earnest,
so certain in its patchwork,
even folded atop a pillow

like a mother’s prayer,
or, years later, tucked beneath
those downy clouds where

his long, dark curls found rest.
And that’s what his tapestry
became: childhood wrinkled

in the night, by day a secret
soiled, buried in a shame
so dark he never saw

the fleece unsheared,
yet falling in fistfuls
from each lamb like her hair

after each treatment; their
figures faint as his breath
that first day, or his mother’s

on her last; their tails
unspooling into nothing
come sunrise. Somewhere

in that hollowing, a song
O, little lamb. Breathe,
little lamb.
Her voice distant,

its echo stitched by her own
hands—the same that cradled
a fading babe. Little lamb.

Follow me, and he did,
or he tried, his breath soft
like hers — wool taken

from its cold animal.
Hear me now: cling to
a thing, and it still leaves.

All that remains of the lambs
is a black hoof and a rogue nose
that float, jaundiced

and fraying, on green fields
still green, still empty
for a man who can’t let go.


Author’s Note

I’ve been drawn to the pastoral lately, particularly how many of the images therein pervade our daily lives. From a blanket to the children’s musical We Like Sheep, my own childhood now seems to have been peppered by an idealized understanding of place and survival, and, in many ways, it was. This poem explores how memory, like the pastoral, might bring comfort even in its distortion of reality. Approaching both refusal and reckoning, “Parable” considers the stories told by a childhood blanket, of the lives that touched it, and what remains.