Sheep Yards, Mercerism and Covert Operations

Counting, feeding through, compartmentalising,
wool-give compressing into yards’ changeable
labyrinth, and the death-knock rattle of the hammer:
they want order, they guild and board and label;

het up the buyer with a flea in his collar,
doubled dipped and gut-wrenching parasite killer
in earth body, no love wave tremor of the surface,
lambs spring-flexes as earth moves horizontally;

three-decked galleons with sheep legs oars
work in close, oh those road ranger gearboxes,
powertrains, slow growl transmissions: eco-
split, focal…who’d know the driver had his claws

deep in the national psyche, had hobnobbed
and downplayed for sheep security? a life change,
a rotating drum, a different kind of gettin’
down and dirty, the collective bleat an S wave robbed

of its grunt, its hooved paddock chop
right through bedrock—less stress
given the tobacco hack, the tarry lungs,
and his thinking over the approaching fuss,

the transit of Venus, his mates in Iraq
spruiking their Arabic, celebrating a lockout
turned into a crossroads, a futures market
for sheep parts, the offloading of his truck;

sales in the sheep yards hustle along, sheep
for cars, sheep for ride-on mowers, sheep
for a TV divan, sheep for own brands,
sheep for guns: run along, run along.

Gated communities and the privilege of wool, I live on…
little bulls in china shops forcing the issues,
lock-down cull, general alarm bordering on panic;
this life, this death empathy: if only, through sheep’s eyes.

About John Kinsella:
John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems (W. W. Norton, 2003), Doppler Effect: Collected Experimental Poems (Salt, 2004), and The New Arcadia (W. W. Norton, 2005).