The Bitter Herdsman

by Malcolm Watson

Once we were armourers to the gods.
We fashioned Zeus’s thunderbolts, Poseidon’s
trident, Artemis’s bow. We built the massive walls
of Argos and Mycenae, and laboured in Hephaistos’
forge’s fiery glow. Zeus allotted us this land where grapes
and corn and apples grow without the need to plough or sow.

Now we are shepherds and like all shepherds, live apart, alone
and sullen in our caverns in the hills. We’ve lost the art of smithing.
Couldn’t make a spoon. We have no ships or markets, don’t know
how to farm or bake or trade. We have no laws or government,
We do exactly as we please. They call us uncouth monsters.
We don’t care. We have our sheep and goats and curds and whey.

But after that tremendous storm, they came, the locusts
and the pismires, parasites and weevils, stinking lice,
a nest of fucking insects following a shifty fox.
I went to sleep blind drunk and woke no different.
I should’ve chewed the bloody lot. The bastards
poked my eye out with a burning olive tree.

That smart-arse said his name was Nobody. Nobody!
They’ve left me stumbling in the dark to herd my sheep
in everlasting night, a lamp without its oil, lighthouse
without a light, a torch without a flame. Who’ll
ever have me now? And worst of all,
no-one, no-one at all,
believes me.