In the Sheep Pasture

Soft eyes

Soft hides

Hard hooves create a soothing rustle as they move through the dirty hay

The rounded, mucky rumps and sloping necks make the flock of sheep, huddled together

In the corner of the barn,

look like a mountain range

With peaks that every so often turn and blink, exhale through velvety pink noses.

The slopes of these mountains are wrinkled

And I can sink my fingers into these wrinkles and feel the depth of the thick, fleecy wool

The hides are like oceans with no perspective, just endless ripples in cream-colored water

One bold sheep-number 1304, recently sheared-

Shoves its white face into my armpit as I sit at the edge of the fence that corrals her

Her breath is warm, and leaves a wetness on my arm

Her eyes are manic, with black rectangles, (not circles), for pupils.

On a whim, I press my own forehead into her bony one, and I feel tenderness in our touch.

These are the fleece sheep, white-faced and bred for their wool

The male stands in the center of the throng

His curled horns are worn smooth, and deeply grooved

With a protruding ridge along the curve that is practically skeletal

A primal spine.

House sparrows fly about  the eaves of the barn

Flies buzz in my ear, on my skin

That is comfortably warmed in the mid-September sun,

The same sun that lights up the black faces

Of the meat sheep out in the pasture

Which is yet another ocean, this one of rolling green

With a pond off to the right.

I walk towards the sheep destined for slaughter, and they look up inquisitively

A golden cat slinks out of the grasses, and upon seeing me, stands on guard, alert

And a great white egret takes to the sky with alarm as the flock begins to run.

Great Egret

I can hear their hooves stamping

For a moment, the frightened sheep are awing

Their feet fly forward like deer; their heavy bulk becomes power

As they move as one mass.

When I sit, they calm down

Are consumed by grazing

But every now and then, one will lift its head and look in my direction

And soft eyes watch me again

In the sheep pasture.