Shearing the Sheep
Bolus head, Ireland
There’s something about this I don’t like
that takes me back to being a child again.
Perhaps it’s the look of the old shepherd
in his dirty overalls and ripped white tee;
or perhaps something about his young assistant
brandishing that pair of silver clippers.
Yet watching them using their male strength,
to wrestle the poor creature into submission,
I doubt I could ever forgive the world of men:
the buzz, buzz, buzz of those electric clippers,
and the long white strips of wool falling
in soft heaps all over the rough land.
And then the naked creature scampering off
in the bushes— a long, red gash on its belly.
What did I see? What did I really see,
all alone, from my little cottage in Ireland?
After all those years
of long black dresses
and fancy high heels,
it’s funny seeing Mother
putter around the house
in a pair of dungarees
bought at Farm and Fleet.
And yet these overalls
are what she now must wear
to keep her scars safe,
says the oncologist.
But somehow these overalls
seem too big for her,
drooping on her shoulders
and sagging in the ass;
They’re made for the obese
I try and tell myself,
knowing that the truth
is Mother’s getting smaller
and smaller each day.
And all she really wants
is to play the ‘cello again,
but the stupid overalls
keep getting in the way.
Each time she leans in
to the big ‘cello body,
the rough blue denim
aggravates her scars.
And when she leads the bow
over the ‘cello strings,
those little brass buttons
click and click and click
against the hollow wood.
Jodie Hollander’s work has been published in The Poetry Review, The Yale Review, PN Review, and Australia’s Best Poems of 2011 & 2015. Her full-length collection, My Dark Horses, is published with Liverpool University Press.
Photograph © Joanna Eldredge Morrissey.