woman shearing a sheep
Shearing a Sheep
by Maggie Mackay

It’s late June, no rain forecast today.
A heat haze rises over Ballantrae Bay
misting the watercolour wash of sea and sky.
By the pen I flip the Cheviot between my legs,
prop her shoulders between my knees.
Next I steady the weight as her legs push,
then point stock still into the air, her belly exposed.
Sweat begins to drip into my eyes, salty and blinding.
Dad whispers instructions, don’t nick, mind the teats.
I balance his wrought-iron shears in my right hand,
pushing the left hard flat against her smoothed skin.
She bleats in protest. Fleece piles around her shape
like a cloak unwinding
into a creamy white “wool in the grease” skin.

IMAGE: “A woman shearing a sheep” from a book of hours by Jehan de Luc (1524). (Source: larsdatter.com.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy researching my family roots and found that three generations back, on my father’s side, is the shepherding tradition undertaken on farms in Dumfries and Galloway [Scotland]. This brought about the idea of researching the new skill of shearing, drawing a parent and youngster together in the poem, one learning the art from the master.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maggie Mackay is a brave-hearted Scot and a final year MA Poetry student at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has work in various print and online publications, including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Prole, The Interpreter’s House,  Indigo Dreams Publishing and Three Drops Press.