Longlisted for The Poetry Society Competition 2016.

In response to the last line of 'To the Farmer' by R.S.Thomas.

 

You will not do so again

But you did and in the first ring of the ninth
Circle of Hell they wait for you, family betrayer
Not because you left your wife untouched for
Forty years and touched your daughter too much
Or cursed a son with a twisted spine, victim of the
Baler’s twine or Floss, your nimble bitch whose
Hips gave out beneath your whip…

No, these are the orphans, bottle-fed by your
Own hand near your own stove, cradled in
Your woollen arms while outside a March
Snow smothered the farm’s walls. Froze half
Your flock - the luckier ones…

So here they stand in patient lines. Whole again,
The sums of many parts not least their tiny, pulsing
Hearts which found their way to Felixstowe and
Picky diners’ plates or the pretty heads with
Trusting eyes and welcome bleats forming the base
For Pedigree Chum’s most popular treats. Soft
Baby fleece ripped away while the hooks still
Swayed…

I’d count them while you can. While you’re still
Warm, embedded in ice. These newly-born who
Will soon gambol in Elysium’s fields, free from
The God-fearing predator, slayer. The wolf who
Once wore sheep’s clothing…

 

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