Do Sheep Dream of Other Sheep (and other poems)

Do Sheep Dream of Other Sheep

In a pasture far
from the hearing of others
a sheep lifts its head from grazing.
The edible greenery is sparse
yet somehow barely adequate
and the sheep isn’t hungry enough
to wander little or far.
The sheep does not know 
it is alone, that miles away
there is a lushness to a land
beyond its vision, a fragrant land
of sweet nourishment beyond
its sense of smell. Unaware 
that the fence is no longer intact, 
the sheep bumps against rotting rails,
the animal’s vision poor.  

O for one step over a rail, 
to journey toward a flock 
it does not conceive of existing
where a shepherd cares,
and the call of the wolf
is silenced by the bark of a dog.
But this sheep stays, ill kept,
close to the pricker bush
it can just feel, knowing only
what it has always known
to be its thorny truth.


Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.  —  Rene Magritte    

Because you cannot look at the sun
even as the moon would hide
the light in near totality
you look instead through 
special glasses if you look at all. 
Because you are tempted to look 
at the sun directly, your eyes 
make you look away for their own sake.
The needs of your future sight
outweigh the desire of your mind’s eye.
Because your curiosity hasn’t 
killed you thus far you persist
in looking for light in darkness,
unlike Job wishing that light had
not entered the day of his birth.
Because you hold to the light 
of one star still in the night 
holding onto you in a covenant of love,
you wake in the morning no more
the countenance of joy but alive,
brave enough for one more day 
of love eclipsed by sunken wounds 
you do not need special glasses to see 
though no one chances to view 
the wounds you wear.


What do you see everywhere, everywhen, as you consider the stars?
Do you see Sirius in need of petting, as I do, or do you view this sky
through the reflection of artificial light as on my dog’s widened eyes, 
in the same way as I gaze upon the Milky Way veil of your glory?

O to see each atom and all the stars at once, knowing 
that to do so is an act of grace, beyond my visual field.
Perhaps for you there is the simple want of a slight blindness—
to see yourself as I do, through my imperfection and hunger.

O to be seen by you, as carbon in your image, atoms and molecules 
you touched with the same spark of intent which burns 
as intensely as the thought of a dog star or the drop of a dog’s tear.
I would dare to touch the stars with my tears in your scarred hand.

Note to a Dog

I want you to look down, now, not thinking 
about the ground. I want you to look 
at the dry blade of grass and the dirt around it,
how the soil absorbs all the light that touches it, 
warming it the way you warm my lap.

Please look at all the grass, both dead and living, 
even not comprehending that dead grass 
once lived and covered the dirt beneath your feet.
Would you want an uplifted vision—to be able 
to look at yourself as I do, knowing life and death?

Please look at me as more than giver and taker, 
more than a version of yourself who pets you 
with a not-so-different purpose, with the same 
desire as you have. I would hope to give you more 
than the earth offers, hold onto you for life


  • Claudia M. Stanek’s work has been turned into a libretto, has been part of an art exhibition, and has been translated into Polish. Her poems have been published in her chapbook Language You Refuse to Learn as well as in Book of Matches, Atticus Review, Rust + Moth, Aji, and Inscape, among others. She holds an MFA from The Writing Seminars at Bennington College. A founding member of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), Claudia lives in Tennessee.

  • When Thomas William Smillie (1843–1917) was designated “custodian” of the Smithsonian Institution’s photographic “specimens” in 1896 — a position we might now call curator of photography — it was the first such appointment at any museum in the United States, and perhaps in the world. Until his death, the Scottish-born chemist would dedicate his life to building and presenting the Smithsonian’s collections, whose far-flung gamut, as Merry Foresta described it, included such categories as “ethnological and archaeological, lithological, mineralogical, ornithological, metallurgical, and perhaps the most enticing category of all, miscellaneous.” One of the most curious aspects of Smillie’s photographic survey of the Smithsonian is that it encompasses what would normally be the almost invisible accoutrements of museological storage and display: showcases, racks, shelves, chests with parts pulled out and piled up before paper backdrops into oddly modish assemblages. In one such image, a single drawer is positioned delicately on a clock-draped stool, looking for all the world like a pensive sitter. Smillie was also known for taking photographs of letters, documents, and books, whether to make a personal copy of useful information or to preserve an important object in case of damage or disaster. Indeed, in a curious sort of mise-en-abîme, Smillie even had a penchant for taking photographs of photographs (is that one of Smillie’s own eclipse pictures that catches the viewer’s attention at the bottom of a display case?). In these and other images, we see his broad view of the medium’s potential: an indispensable tool and a mode of creative expression whose historical antecedents and chemical underpinnings deserved careful study and preservation lest they be forgotten.