Sheep

The first four leaders had broken knees
The four old dams had broken knees
The flock would start to run, then freeze
The first four leaders had broken knees

‘Why is the flock so docile?’ asked the hawk.
‘Yes, why is the flock so docile,’ laughed the dog,

‘The shepherd’s mallet is in his hand,
The shepherd’s hand is on the land,
The flock will start to run, then freeze—
The four old dams have broken knees,’
The dog explained.

The hawk exclaimed:
‘The shepherd leads an easy life!’

‘I know, I know,’ cried the shepherd’s wife,
‘He dresses me out in a narrow skirt
and leaves me home to clean his dirt.
Whenever I try to run, I freeze—
All the old dams have broken knees.’

‘Well, I’m so glad he doesn’t dare
to bring his breaking power to bear
on me,’ said the hawk, flying into the sun;
while the dog warned, in his dog run:
‘Hawk—the shepherd has bought a gun!’

‘Why is the hawk so docile?’ asked the flock,

‘He fell to the ground in a feathery breeze;
He lies in a dumb lump under the trees,
We believe we’d rather have broken knees
Than lose our blood and suddenly freeze
Like him.’

But the oldest dam gave her leg a lick,
And said, ‘Some die slow and some die quick,
A few run away and the rest crawl,
But the shepherd never dies at all—
Damn his soul.

I’d will my wool to the shepherd’s wife
If she could change the shepherd’s life,
But I myself would bring him low
If only, only I knew how.’


Judy Grahn, “Sheep” from love belongs to those who do the feeling: New & Selected Poems (1966-2006). Copyright © 2008 by Judy Grahn. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.
Source: love belongs to those who do the feeling: New & Selected Poems (1966-2006) (Red Hen Press, 2008)