The Sheep Child

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Farm boys wild to couple
With anything  with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth  mounds
Of pinestraw  will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say  I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There’s this thing that’s only half
Sheep  like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol  because
Those things can’t live.  his eyes
Are open  but you can’t stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture  but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?

Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may

Be saying  saying

  I am here, in my father’s house.
  I who am half of your world, came deeply
  To my mother in the long grass
  Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
  Listening for foxes. It was something like love
  From another world that seized her
  From behind, and she gave, not lifting her head
  Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
  Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
  Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
  Of sobbing  of something stumbling
  Away, began, as she must do,
  To carry me. I woke, dying,

  In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
  Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
  The great grassy world from both sides,
  Man and beast in the round of their need,
  And the hill wind stirred in my wood,
  My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
  I ate my one meal
  Of milk, and died
  Staring. From dark grass I came straight

  To my father’s house, whose dust
  Whirls up in the halls for no reason
  When no one comes  piling deep in a hellish mild corner,
  And, through my immortal waters,
  I meet the sun’s grains eye
  To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
  Dead, I am most surely living
  In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
  Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
  And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
  They go into woods  into bean fields  they go
  Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
  They groan  they wait  they suffer
  Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.

© James Dickey