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.
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.