The First One

for Rachel

I am waiting and

watching from the house, and

there is one. I can tell

by the way she frets

and walks, and sits and

twists. I go away.



The water’s spilled down

her back legs. I watch.

She twists, paws the ground, frets.

It’s been all day.

I bite my lip. “Here we go,” I say.

I go through the wooden gate, call,

“Here, Girl.”

She won’t come.

I hold out my hand, show her

the sheepnuts.


I have her by the neck. She’s breathing

hard. Her nostrils flare, in-out in-out.

How do I get her to the ground?

I twist her. Her legs give. She shows

the whites of her eyes. I sit

on her stomach. “It’s all right,” I say.

In the pines across the paddock, a starling

sounds an alarm. “Okay,” I say.

I look at the place between her back legs.


Her vagina is red and stretched.

There’re two soft cloven hooves

in the opening. I push up

my sleeves and lean across her side.

Between the hooves I can see

a black nose. I touch a hoof.

I have to see if I can get my

fingers around it.


I have my hand inside—

around a leg. It’s soft and

wet, and bone. I must pull it.

I am pulling. I am

breathing hard.

The ewe groans.

It could be me


I am pulling,

pulling with both arms. Pulling

on both legs. I am using

all my strength. My thighs

are warm against her flank.

I am pulling. I feel the strain

across my shoulders. I doubt

my strength to hold her

down and pull.

She is struggling.

I am pulling.


Her haunches give.

I am pulling.

The flank heaves.

I am pulling.

The ewe pushes. Something pops

– a soft pop – and releases. And

I think,


Have I broken it?

I am not pulling.

There are wet black eyes…

… a head

in place of the stretched black rim.

There are ears—black-tipped ears, a film

of slime—slimy wool. Did I say eyes

—black shining eyes? Two legs. Two hooves.


She grunts and shudders. The rest slithers out. It is still.


I’m beside

the lamb. It’s alive

but tired. Bone tired.

I think, Shouldn’t it get up? I

slap it.  Once.  Twice.

It lifts its head—just a little.

My hands encircle its slimy yellow

girth. I place it

beside its mother’s head and

she begins to lick.


I lie down on the grass on my back.

I am bone tired.

A starling calls out in the pines

across the paddock.