Circle

September 19, 2016 § 3 Comments

Soay-sheep.jpg

 

His mother was a wild creature and knew how to run. With the brown hair-like fleece of her feral descendants, she was living archaeology to the ancient sheep of the Asian mountains. Her son had slit yellow eyes and he slid out of her into the long grass when no one was looking. He was a good size and already at the teat when I found him. Feisty and proud with sharp, thick horns, I kept him as breeding stock.

That was eleven years ago. Every November he did his job. I put him in with the ewes, and five months later each one scraped a shallow bowl in the home field then lay down and pushed out his lambs.

He stayed wild – he never let me know him. And he hated the sheep dog – teaching his brothers and sisters to scatter. Eleven is old for a sheep and he knew. His age could be counted on the rings of his horns. He was a fighter, and his battle scars were shiny and white upon his forehead. He had been warring again with his younger brothers to keep his place in the flock when I found him. His body looked wrong, his neck crooked. Perhaps dislocated.

The man came with the captive bolt in a black case. I made myself watch. I thought the killing would be easy, but his skull was old and thick. The ram fell forward when the crack came. Then he got up. Teetered. Shook himself. The man fetched a bolt strong enough for a cow. A louder crack, and the blood came like a bung lost from a barrel.

I walked away to be sick.

Soon after, the lambs came. A brown ewe scraped and lay down to push her baby out. All day it wouldn’t come. I washed my hands and put my fingers inside. Legs. Two back ones and a tail. Sticky yellow shit and blood stains on my hands.

I waited for her to squeeze and carefully twisted the lamb out of her. Long and thin, it stretched out on the ground. With no breath.

I cleared the mucus from its mouth, its nose. Rubbed it gently. Spluttering. It shook itself to life.

The mother heard the life noise. A lick, a snicker. The only sound she ever made.

~

circle

October 15, 2015 § 13 Comments

140319-16-029-Copy 2-Chester-rfsmain-1000

His mother was a wild creature and knew how to run. With the brown hair-like fleece of her feral descendants, she was living archaeology to the ancient sheep of the Asian mountains. Her son had slit yellow eyes, and slid onto the long grass when no one was looking. He was a good size and already at the teat when I found him. Feisty and proud with sharp, thick horns, I kept him as breeding stock.

That was eleven years ago. Every November he did his job. I put him in with the ewes, and five months later each one scraped a shallow bowl in the home field, lay down, and pushed out his lambs.

He stayed wild – he never let me know him. And he hated the sheep dog – teaching his family to scatter. Eleven is old for a sheep, and he knew. His age could be counted on the rings of his horns – his battle scars shiny and white on his forehead. He was a fighter – and had been battling again with his younger brothers to keep his place in the flock when I found him. His body looked wrong, his neck crooked. Perhaps dislocated.

The man came with the captive bolt in a shiny, black case. I made myself watch. I thought the killing would be easy, but the skull was old and thick. The ram fell forward when the crack came. Then he got up. Teetered. Shook himself. The man fetched a bolt strong enough for a cow. A louder crack, and the blood came like a bung lost from a barrel.

I walked away to be sick.

A while after that the lambs came. A brown ewe scraped and lay down to push her baby out. All day it wouldn’t come. I washed my hands and put my fingers inside. Legs. Two back ones and a tail. Sticky yellow shit and blood stains on my hands.

I waited for her to squeeze, and carefully twisted the lamb out of her. Long and thin, it stretched out on the ground. With no breath.

I cleared the mucus from its mouth, its nose. Rubbed it gently. Spluttering. It shook itself to life.

The mother heard the life noise. A lick, a snicker. The only sound she ever made.

~

I wrote the bare bones of this about ten years ago when I thought it was going to be a poem. I picked it up in 2012 and let it finish itself. I blogged it under the same title in 2013. It mostly really happened.

lambing

April 12, 2014 § 6 Comments

(c) Towner Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

black lamb slithers out

it’s mother licks

snickers

heaves –

here comes another

*

Circle

December 9, 2013 § 13 Comments

Image

His mother was a wild creature and knew how to run. With the brown hair-like fleece of her feral descendants, she was living archaeology to the ancient sheep of the Asian mountains. Her son had slit yellow eyes, and slid into my world in the long grass when no one was looking. He was a good size and already at the teat when I found him. Feisty and proud with sharp, thick horns, I kept him as breeding stock.

That was eleven years ago. Every November he did his job. I put him in with the ewes, and five months later each one scraped a shallow bowl in the home field, lay down, and pushed out his lambs.

He stayed wild – he never let me know him. And he hated the sheep dog – teaching his brothers and sisters to scatter. Eleven is old for a sheep, and he knew. His age could be counted on the rings of his horns – his battle scars shiny and white on his forehead. He was a fighter – and had been fighting again with his younger brothers to keep his place in the flock when I found him. His body looked wrong, his neck crooked. Perhaps dislocated.

The man came with the captive bolt in a black case. I made myself watch. I thought the killing would be easy, but his skull was old and thick. The ram fell forward when the crack came. Then he got up. Teetered. Shook himself. The man fetched a bolt strong enough for a cow. A louder crack, and the blood came like a bung lost from a barrel.

I walked away to be sick.

Soon after, the lambs came. A brown ewe scraped and lay down to push her baby out. All day it wouldn’t come. I washed my hands and put my fingers inside. Legs. Two back ones and a tail. Sticky yellow shit and blood stains on my hands.

I waited for her to squeeze and carefully twisted the lamb out of her. Long and thin, it stretched out on the ground. With no breath.

I cleared the mucus from its mouth, its nose. Rubbed it gently. Spluttering. It shook itself to life.

The mother heard the life noise. A lick, a snicker. The only sound she ever made.

Any suggestions for improvements much appreciated…

The Smallest Memory

October 29, 2013 § 6 Comments

Chapter One of an unfinished novel

Image

The month before Romy came into the world was hot and listless. Everyone in Norfolk waited for the thunderstorm that wouldn’t come, and Jenny draped herself across the overstuffed sofa and refused to budge. ‘Too hot’, she grumbled, scowling at her swollen ankles. ‘Too big,’ she muttered as she massaged the skin stretching itself tight across her belly.

The days were long and shapeless, and at night she tossed and turned under the crisp cotton sheet in the bed she shared with William. She fretted about the never-ending trips to empty the half full bladder Romy insisted on prodding with her tiny feet, and William took to camping on the sofa.

The River Waveney, a mile as the crow flew from the old house where Romy would soon be born, grew green and turgid in the drought; and the government made it a punishable offence to use anything other than grey water to keep Jenny’s precious garden alive. Six yellow plastic buckets were lined up every day outside the kitchen door waiting to be filled with water full of dirty bubbles for William to douse the roses. But they wilted anyway – their sap leeched by a sudden plague of greenfly; and their leaves, infected by black spot and mildew, littered the soil like last year’s stained confetti.

Jenny took to weeping at the slightest provocation. Tears fell as she watched the bindweed wind itself madly around everything; and she wailed loudly for the dozens of thirsty hedgehogs, out in the daytime desperate for a drink, lying flat as prickly pancakes in the lane.

Ten days before Jenny’s due date the rains finally came. The tomatoes ripening inside the conservatory exploded and scattered their seeds over the glass like insects on a windscreen, and the lawn turned an indecent green. Thunder rumbled crossly every night and exploded in glittering forks along the valley keeping everyone awake. The lane turned into a river, and the septic tank in the orchard gurgled and overflowed leaving obnoxious puddles around the base of the apple trees. The drains outside the house couldn’t cope and turned into small, determined geysers.

Jenny got the baby clothes out, and heaped them into a neat pile next to her favourite blue jellaba she would wear during labour. Then she lined up the homeopathic remedies on top of the bookcase in the bedroom. ‘I’m making a list,’ she said to William. ‘In case you can’t remember which one I’m supposed to have.’

‘I shan’t forget,’ he said gently. ‘And in any case, I’ll just ask you.’

‘You won’t,’ she replied crossly. ‘I’ll be too busy having the baby. And in any case, I might forget.’ She read out the list. ‘Caulophyllum if the contractions stop, Pulsatilla if I get weepy, Sepia for backache – and I might need a back rub as well. Staphysagria during transition if I get really cross and start swearing at the midwife, and…’ she stopped and breathed in deeply.

‘It’s all right sweetie,’ soothed William. I’ve memorized the lot already. You’ve forgotten about the Secale if the placenta doesn’t come out, and the Arnica and the Aconite for afterwards.’

Jenny woke up the next day at ten past six. ‘I’ve got a pain. Right here!’ She prodded the base of her spine. ‘It’s happening.’

‘Try to get a bit more sleep,’ sighed William. ‘I expect we’ve got a while yet.’

Jenny sat on the beanbag in half lotus and waited, but soon the contractions stopped. She went to sit in the garden, but all the weeds made her cross. William made her lunch – which made the contractions start up again – so Jenny got on all fours like she’d been practising in the yoga class. The midwife raced down the drive up in her Ford Fiesta, had a cup of tea, and went away. ‘You’ll be hours yet,’ she announced.

William took Jenny for a bumpy ride on the tractor, but the bouncing had no effect, and the noise just gave her a headache. She was in the bath meditating when the waters broke. ‘Ouch!’ she cried. ‘It’s really coming!’

The midwife came back and made Jenny get out of the bath. She put on the blue jellaba and got back on the beanbag. ‘I’m getting rather cross,’ she said. ‘I feel like swearing.’

‘Good,’ smiled the midwife. ‘Means you’re ready.’

Jenny pushed and the top of Romy’s head came out – then it went back in again. The baby bounced back and forth like a ball on a rubber band, until the midwife reached inside and unlooped the placenta from Romy’s neck.

‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘Push.’

Jenny swore and did as she was told, and at half past midnight, eighteen hours after she’d shown an interest in seeing what the world was like, Romy was catapulted across the room.

The midwife pulled at the placenta and it slithered out on the plastic sheet.

‘Ouch,’ said Jenny smiling broadly. ‘We’re keeping that. We’re going to plant it under a fig tree.’

Jenny got back in the bath, turned on the hot tap, and closed her eyes again. William appeared with a pot of tea and hot buttered toast.  ‘Born in a thunderstorm,’ she said to William munching happily. ‘Listen. One, two, three seconds. It’s really close.’

Then the lights went out.

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