Earthbound

Jamie McKendrick

She lay mute as an Old Testament sacrifice;
nothing so abundant as a thicket –
but barbed wire, a secular parallel,
the sheep had snagged her horn on, days before

judging by the jaundiced eyes and tantrum
of panic, perfunctorily abandoned
when we came by. She must have tried grazing
the wrong side, where the promised pastures grow,

and ended up like this – involved
in a fatally elegant metal-puzzle.
Like Samson, the secret of her strength
was her undoing. Plush Derry peat

that let its coppery fluid seep
round every footprint till the ling sprung back
had stained the once-white fleece with darkness
in a rising watermark. Keckhanded

Samaritans, we unwound the ravelled horn and stood
rooted as the sheep reared in reverse out,
Lazarus-like, from the bared earth’s open trench
and, as if the wire’s plucked note, running its length

faint as a pulse, had knelled for no one else,
her lungs rasped like broken bellows, her back legs
braced to uphold the body’s earthbound weight
then let the burden fall back on its own.