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