Bad Sheep

By Hailey Leithauser b. 1954 Hailey Leithauser

Midnight’s merely blue,
but me, me, me, I’m
and through
sloe, cracked soot-
nicotine spat, licorice whip.
You can scratch, scratch, scratch
but I stay underskin true
to ebony, ink, crowberry, pitch;
hoist me up by my hooves
and shake till I’m shook, I’m still
chock full of coke, fuliginous
O there’s swart in my soul,
coal by the bag,
cinders and slag,
scoriac grit, so please
come, comb
through my fleece with hands pallid
as snow and watch
how they grow tarry, raven,
stygian, ashed—
or, if you wish, clean me with bleach
I won’t
flinch, just char
down to a core of caliginous
pure carbon, atramentous,
utterly piceous,
shadowed, and starless,
each clumpity clump
and eclipse of my heart raptly
a woolgather dark.

Source: Poetry (April 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2012
 Hailey  Leithauser


Poet Hailey Leithauser was born in Baltimore and raised in Maryland and Central Florida. Leithauser has worked as a salad chef, real estate office manager, gourmet food salesperson, freelance copy editor, phone surveyor, bookstore clerk, fact checker, and, most recently, senior reference librarian at the Department of Energy in Washington, DC. Returning to writing after a break of several decades, her work has appeared widely, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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