Poppy’s Daughter, A Eulogy
Poppy, Fast Eater, as my small daughter called you.
You, a vibrant, thriving ewe, led your friends into our pasture
and into our hearts, after a long journey
on Interstates and byways.
Your new home, frozen and dry as winter set in.
You were my midwife as you lambed that first Spring.
Green curling up and out from the ground.
Three children had been ripped from my belly
under the heat of surgical glare
and the sleep offered by chemical cocktails.
I had never seen a live birth.
But you, a mother by nature,
you knew how to drop a lamb, turn and bring life
into the wet mewing shiver,
soft in the hay, scared of the cold air
of this harsh world.
Lift up, spill golden milk into the small mouth of lambs.
You taught your daughters your apt skill, midwife to us all.
Standing between us and the danger of the wolves
and feral dogs that run the highways on the edge of our pastures.
Wet nursing the lambs that mothers rejected
who would have starved or fallen to coyotes and buzzards without you.
How could I dare milk you to make cheese?
How could I take from you your birthright?
We never could eat your lambs, your daughters standing by your side,
our own royalty of Poppy.
How could you die broken-hearted when our cow was put down?
A blizzard was coming and her leg was broken.
Asking us why, why, why, why?!
Cowering, afraid of me when I brought you water in the afternoon thaw.
Why, your eyes pleaded, why did we hold the gun to Rosie’s head?
What is mercy?
From the cab of the old farm truck on the first day of Spring
This day begins pulling stillborn lambs from a bloody sheep,
grateful and tired. I hold her head and tell her she is not alone.
I know what it is like to have stuck babies
pulled from my body, with a calf-jack and chains.
I hoist up into the old truck, pull the seat forward
so I can see what is in front of me,
worry that driving the truck into the tall dry grass
will set everything on fire,
spread over the hills before it swallows us up too.
The day moves on. I tend to the sore and bleeding ewe,
dispose of the limp bodies of her stillbirth,
carry them in an orange bucket to the edge of the woods,
bury the lambs shallow with much reverence
to the darkness that settles on the farm.
The sun is soon high in the sky when I remember
breakfast and the children still in pajamas.
I set out strawberries and milk, sandwiches later.
They play in the yard with escaped piglets and chickens,
all unaware that death has visited and carried off
so much of my heart this morning.
The first day of Spring, the first warm day,
the maples drip drip dripping sap into buckets.
From that sweetness we will get sugar-drunk
and laugh over the children’s stories at dinner.
We will wash blood and mud from our boots, listen
to the rustle of the winter grass in the warming breeze,
the hum of the winter bees tasting our sap,
turning it into sunshine.