The animal pauses, roaring; the shaggy fur flares.
Half-hobbled by pain, it lunges on,
tindered in the electrical charge of its progress.
Each slow lift of the hurt paw ripples its haunch.
The man, who has just opened the cloth
in which he carries all he owns—a quill,
a thumb of ink, a book, a small blade—
spreads these things on the ground and stands up
slowly, stands still. Sensation
thorns through him—the first
sweet sink of claws, jubilation
of incisors…. His body is like the thin
willow that grows near the river; his faith,
fully formed in sap and marrow. He does not turn
away, nor does he call out for anything. He holds
his blade like a light, makes his arm a bench.
There is no training for love, only love.
The man waits, then excises the thorn.
Susan Gillis is a poet, teacher, and member of the poetry collective Yoko’s Dogs. Her most recent book is The Rapids (Brick, 2012).