Childhood Music

Old Schmidt clacks
two sticks to tell
his sheep it’s time for bed
he smells like a barn

Mother says blue overalls
always muddy always
something filthy
in his hands a hoe or rake

a snake a dead bird
a wiry dog trots alongside
dirty as he is
tin bell around its neck

so weird familiar music
comes drifting back
bark jingle mutter clack
and fades away

they were a little family
it’s true it’s time
he calls time to go back
over the hill into the barn

where he did sometimes
drowse beside them
where he was happiest
there in the dry hay

the sagging gray barn
they locked up they
burned down one night
all the sheep inside.

Copyright © 2019 Matthew Thorburn. This poem originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, Winter & Spring 2019. Used with permission of the author.