I crouch down in the hay beneath the lamp
With two new lambs. Blood dries and crusts their curls
Of wool, colostrum trickles down their heads.
In these first crucial hours the lambs just stare
Into the unknown darkness of the stall.
It’s spring but not yet spring enough to know
They will not freeze. The door creaks closed, then open
Again in the harsh breeze. The mother ewe
Rustles through grain, and the occasional
Groan of a lonely cow breaks through the stillness.
Unravelling straw and cobwebs from my hair,
I watch the lambs try out their knobby legs and fail.
There’s only so much we can do. We clear
The brush for daffodils, return blue eggs
To fallen nests. We guide the little tongues
Up for the milk, but it’s up to the lambs
To feed. We fall asleep beside the fire
And leave the turning season to its taking.
A sapling doesn’t bud; you fail to carry
To term; the cells of honeycomb go dry.
One of the newborns finally latches on,
The other does not make it through the night.
I’ll hold the lamb that lives and warm the bottle
And help him stand until he stands alone.
Eventually I’ll wean him off the mother.
I’ll shear the wool. I’ll sharpen the dull blade.
I’ll scratch between his ears the way he likes
Before we do what we must do—before
We quickly slit the throat to bleed him out.