April 25, 2014 § 37 Comments

A piece originally published in 2014. Completely forgotten about until a fellow blogger, Hanne T. Fisker found it while rummaging about on here. Check out her website where she exhibits some of her powerful and ethereal photographs. Thanks Hanne ! x

This is a fanciful haiku, as in reality what I am about to describe probably wouldn’t happen. No matter you say – it’s one of those Japanese poems after all where you can write whatever you fancy. And of course you’d be right; but the desire to communicate, using something other than the time honoured 5-7-5 syllable arrangement of the form, has propelled me to ramble on a bit about stuff you probably couldn’t care less about.

It’s about the nature of sheep, of which I know more than a little. Apart from their two defining characteristics, which are to escape when you’re all dressed up for a night out, and to die before their time; there is one other – they do not do alone. Like wildebeest and sardines, they appear to have a collective conscious. If they find themselves devoid of company, they take on personality traits unknown in their species, and as sure as eggs are eggs, will not survive five minutes. Try to imagine a lone sardine in the wild Sargasso Sea. Think of a single wildebeest trying to outwit a float (or a pod if they’re little) of hungry crocodiles at a Sudanese river crossing. It would be messy but quick.

Put a sheep anywhere by itself, and if there’s no question of escape, before it dies of a broken heart or something more bloody, it will get depressed. This is where the haiku comes in. In the days before old barns were done up for city types to live in with their white carpets, sparklingly irritating 4 x 4’s and mud-free green wellies, there was a lovely old barn not far from our farm where I often walked. It was falling down gracefully and surrounded by a higgledy-piggledy brick wall covered with moss and lichen. Within this enclosure lived a very sad sheep. I used to hoist the children onto the wall and we would converse. At least we would try: the sheep, suffering from melancholia, took no notice. Then one day the builders arrived and the sheep disappeared. Where to? That great green field in the sky, I expect.

But back to the matter in hand. I wanted that sheep in a haiku, but could not for the life of me confine it and the barn to the 5-7-5 rule (that could be broken if I wanted – except I didn’t). So instead I transplanted the animal to an abandoned hill farm. When a hill farmer sells up or dies, the odd sheep is often left behind, either because it jumped out of the holding pen and ran off because it didn’t like the look of the lorry, or it simply didn’t get rounded up as it was busy elsewhere. Having a lie-in behind a tuft of grass perhaps, or having a swim in a dangerous tarn. Who knows. It could have been anywhere. So, it found itself alone. This is where poetic licence comes in. It would not have hung around waiting for its relatives. It would, like any creature that had lost its amorphous identity and reason d’Γͺtre when it lost its mates, have gone looking for others. But this one didn’t. Perhaps the moon was enough…


the ewe lives alone

on the abandoned hill farm –

she talks to the moon


Image courtesy Robin Shillcock

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§ 37 Responses to sheep

  • NEO says:

    Love it.

    And I’m glad that those 4X4s and white carpets irritate somebody besides me, as well.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thank you, Neo. Yes, I loathe those vehicles.There’s a very, very, very famous rock musician who has gone to seed (well his tummy has), and he has one that says ‘Porsche’ on it. Quite like the white carpets though. Long time no hear. I think those hailku must be sending my old friends to sleep… πŸ™‚

      • NEO says:

        Porsche does make one, although I’ve never seen one in real life. Out here we pretty much all drive them though, or 4X4 pickups, mostly Fords, but we have the dirt (and/or mud) roads to make use of them, modern cars just don’t cut it off the highway.

        I enjoy your haiku, but haven’t figured out a way to make an intelligent comment on them, must to too provincial, or something.

        • Rachael Charmley says:

          Hmm. 4×4’s aren’t necessary round here unless you’re a farmer or something like. Regarding the haiku, I’m not sure what is o be said about them. You either like them or you don’t…
          I appreciate your appreciation nevertheless πŸ™‚

          • NEO says:

            From what i’ve heard, our style ones might not fit in the road, either. The 4X4 itself isn’t quite required, mostly, but the solidity of the truck construction, and the ground clearance often is, and the auto club is far, far away besides. πŸ™‚

          • Rachael Charmley says:

            You seem to know a lot about these things, Neo. My ex, who liked ostentatious bits of machinery, used to have a Hummer. Wrecked all the verges on the single track lanes too… πŸ™‚

          • NEO says:

            Read a fair amount, and laughed a good bit at a you-tube I stumbled across looking for something with some guy trying to unpark a small SUV in one of your car parks. Looked like a way to ruin the start of your day. πŸ™‚

            i like effective machinery, suited to the purpose. Here that tends to things like Ford Expeditions, there I don’t really know, maybe something fro Land Rover. I can imagine, much as I like them, Hummers don’t fit the tracks here either, overpriced for the job, usually too, like a lot of military hardware-that use is much harsher than civilian use. πŸ™‚

          • NEO says:

            Follow up since I forgot.

            I do like them, quite a lot. πŸ˜‰

          • Rachael Charmley says:

            I’m glad you like them quite a lot. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  • Personally I love your preamble/ ramble, Rachael – I would have been happy with just that! It does give a bit of depth to your poem, which again reveals much of your deep-thinking nature. A wonderfully enjoyable post!

  • pi314chron says:

    Just marvelous, Rachael! I particularly enjoyed the prose portion before the haiku! It all reminded me of the poem “Sheep” by the great Welsh poet W. H. Davies, a poem that still makes me laugh after some 40 years. You’re probably familiar with it but, if not, you can read it here:



    • Rachael Charmley says:

      So pleased you liked it, Ron. I wanted to let myself off the lead for a while and have a good old ramble. No, I do not know this poem but will look it up immediately πŸ™‚

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Teehee, Ron. I think it was probably rather malodorous on the boat after a bit. He was quite right not to do it again…

  • i dislike 4×4’s too πŸ˜›

  • I love both the prologue (which I found enlightening) and the haiku! πŸ™‚

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks, Melissa. Just reminding myself I don’t have to write sensible stuff all the time… πŸ™‚

  • Miranda Stone says:

    With your beautiful words, you’ve immortalized that lonely sheep and given it an ever present companion. This is poetic license at its best, my friend! (And I LOVE that painting. I also hope I never come across a solitary sheep, as I now know it’s a heartbreaking sight.)

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      It is a fabulous painting, isn’t it? I wish I could paint like that! So pleased you liked the narrative, Miranda. Why is it always so freeing to write something different? It’s so weird. Have a good weekend, and I hope you got that piece finished…

  • Muddletation says:

    Absolutely adored this and your preamble :))

  • SirenaTales says:

    What a charming, and enlightening, piece, Rachael! Thank you for the intriguing story about sheep, and the lovely image and haiku. xo

  • Enjoyed the explanation and adored the poem. Also the picture is amazing πŸ™‚

  • Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for the lead-in story. The poem was beautiful but I enjoyed both.

  • Rachel! How I loved reading this. You’re some writer, girl. Really. A poet I return to again and again and again, is Mary Oliver. Your writing and your own-style haiku has streaks of her gentle genius in it.

    • Rachael says:

      Ha! You made my day. Thanks for reminding me inadvertently to look over past work – maybe some of it could be re blogged even. Every creative needs a pat on the back from time to time πŸ™‚ Mary Oliver’s writing is like a warm hug…

      • It was so very wonderful to visit your site again and I was guided to this post for some reason, the lovely mystery of life. You can definitely repost! And yes, Mary Oliver is exactly like a warm hug…

  • I loved reading about sheep and their habits. I didn’t know how depressed they got when alone. And the haiku is magnificent – although a real sheep would obviously be sad, this sheep seems quite content talking to the moon!

    • Rachael says:

      So pleased you enjoyed this. I fear I might have anthropomorphized that sheep rather, but I shall never know. Memories flood back, both painful and happy. I once found a sheep in my bed. We had been shearing, and at the end of the day we couldn’t find a ewe that had been bottle fed some years ago. She’d taken herself into the house to have a nap. I quite understood…

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