Maurice Manning

Tell me the story in your heart.
Does it involve a donkey? Does

the donkey have a name? I know
a donkey whose name is Clyde. I like

Ole Clyde. When I walk to the patch
of cedars on the hill, I whistle,

and Clyde comes up from the barn he likes
to wait in. What’s a-goin’ on?

I say, then Clyde swishes his tail
and looks me in the eye. I nod,

he nods, then both of us cock our ears
and look around. We wait and wait.

Most of the time there’s nothing to hear,
nothing to notice, but a hawk

riding the last hot swell of the day
or a spider spinning. Well, tally-ho,

I say in a little while. He swishes
his tail again—Lord, I believe,

help thou my unbelief. Well, now,
he doesn’t come out and say it, but that’s

what he means by that easy swish. It looks
like a by-God moment to me. Maybe

you’d like to put Ole Clyde in the story
in your heart; it would be alright I guess.

Ole Clyde has seen it all. He saw
the old man hang himself in the barn.

He saw the rope the old man carried,
and watched the milk can topple over.

The old man gave one kick and that
was it. Well, there I go! I’ve put death

and God together again! Now all
I need is love. I guess it’s there;

it always is, according to Clyde.
Right now, above my head I count

eleven dragonflies. You know
some people call them skeeterhawks?

You reckon I could ever run out
of stories in my heart to tell?


Maurice Manning's first book of poems, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions (2001) was chosen by poet and judge W.S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. He has since published Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Lone Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c. (2004), Bucolics (2007), The Common Man (2010), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and The Gone and the Going Away (2013). He teaches at Transylvania University.