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Sheep Child

I wanted a child. What then, this? The sheep

Stands dumb behind the fence. Stands dumb.

Demanding what? Pity? Affection? A breast full

Of milk? He’s up to his neck in his filthy fur.

Honey to the flies. Rancid honey. Each coarse

Curl dipped in it. The flies reeling. A sullen

Moment…Oh, Sheep, Sheep, this is my undoing.

That you have a thought and I would read it. I would

Put my head up to your smelly head and watch

The pretty pictures sliding past: Look! There goes

The flowerless larch, lurching over the ground

Like a skiff. And that black thing spinning in the dung

Is a truck tire stuffed with hay. And here, now,

Down from the elm, comes the crow, bully bird

Beating and beating the air with his wide wings,

As if calling the field to order…There is no order.

What day of the week is this? Wash day?

Bake day? What hour of what day?…Behind you,

Flanked by steely thistle, stands the old goat,

Contemptuous, uninterested, gnawing on the last

Of a Sunday dress; and “I had a goat once,”

The thought that comes to me, “I had a small

Black goat, who pounded his head against a tree

Until he was dead. His name was Bumblebee…”

Well, night is coming on. No it is dead afternoon.

But there is something about night in this cloud-

Shadowed field. Perhaps the stars are shifting

Behind the veil of day? Perhaps. Perhaps…Oh,

I would turn this pretty. You see the cowbirds

Riding the boney heifer by the overturned bathtub?

The birds are dung-colored, yes, but when

They rise and swim together they change color,

Brown to red, the way the light changes color

At dusk. And, yes, the swans by the back fence

Are foul-tempered and mean as sin, but look

How their necks wave about now like the stems

Of lilies in the wind…lilies blowing in the wind…

The goat snorts and turns his back. He has

Swallowed the last of the dress…Oh, Sheep, Sheep,

This is my undoing, that you have a thought

And I can read it. Dear Monstrous Child, I would

Nurse you if I could. But you are far too large,

And I am far too old for such foolishness.

from The OrchardFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2004
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Brigit Pegeen Kelly Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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