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Poetry Pleases: The Shearing

Joyce Worsfold's poem captures the reality and the symbolism of one of the biggest events in the sheep farmerís year.

They are ready now, each sheep waiting
Shaking bodies fastened in
Their voices a monotonous maa-aa
Grumbling like old men.

The farmer bursts in,
kicks back the door
front legs in a judo hold
drags one across the floor

The shearer waits in the green light
His skin the luminous brown of beer
Strong arms cradle the trembling head.
It snuggles in surprise against his chest
Licking ineffectually at rivulets of sweat.

Methodically the wool is peeled
Falling in satisfying sheets
Like wet wallpaper
Odd tufts flecking
The cold ,earth floor

The bee-like buzz of razor
Slung across the nibbled beams
The sound of birds
And the muffled enunciation
Of folded fleeces thrown
into a makeshift hammock
slung between two stalls
squeaking rhythmically
like an old rocking chair

The arm holds with loverís hug
The animal peers round itís muscular plain
And makes sheeps eyes at me
No fear, just a look that I recognise
from somewhere.
Plump belly revealed, swollen udder, milk wet teats
Erect nipples quivering.

Capable hands lift spindled legs
Shave smoothly down and turn
Around the back and soft over the tail.
Other hands daub without ceremony
A scarlet stripe of Kitcheys sheep marking fluid
A stain that will grow through winter holly time
Wound of the lamb and remembrance wine.

An affectionate pat on naked rump
The sheep emerges at a run
Clean and leaping with confident voice
It seeks out another and sniffs
Alert and proud they echo one anotherís noise
And leap in glorious freedom past garden gate
the scent of lavender, rosemary and mint.


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