FOSTER COAT

 

Ewes are excellent mothers

they need lambs

in lambing season.

So when a lamb is still-born

or dies hung

hanging from the birth canal

the farmer skins it

while fresh

while warm.

 

He strips it like a rabbit

starting at the throat

slitting the skin

right back

to the anus

peeling the flaps back

careful to keep the fleece free

from blood and fecal matter.

 

This becomes a foster coat

for another mother’s surplus lamb

tied around the neck

and belly.

The head is smeared with afterbirth

or dung.

The ewe, oblivious to loss

feeds its adopted young

smelling itself

on the surrogate.

 

We were not to know this

the day Paddy

bounded back

from a foray

on the common

caked in badger shit

a fleece hanging between

his teeth.

 

We stood and stared at his latest gift

its inside surface

smooth

pink

free of flesh.

 

 

STILL

 

I watched

one on a

wooden porch

south of the Mason-

Dixon Line flying

at the feeder,

invisible wings –

bumblebee impossible –

tonguing sugar-water.

 

Among Mastadons

and granite,

skeletons

and meteorites,

the cabinet

of hummingbirds

stops me short.

 

 

Tim Cresswell is a geographer and poet who has published widely in magazines in the UK and US. His first collection, Soil, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2013. Interviews with him about this collection can be found at the Wild Culture website as well as SnipeLondon.