New Irish Writing: September 2019’s winning poems
The Sheep and Unborn by Clifton Redmond
I killed my first sheep today.
I cut the throat of a chubby Cheviot,
ground the six-inch German blade
until it glowed – a new pristine shine,
plunged into the thick white abyss,
the cotton cloth of his hidden neck.
As the blood-burst from the incision
fell and flowed, like a crimson Styx,
all I could do was imagine – how
the soft wool had kept my hands
warm on this December morning
before the sun arrived, how
the wool resembled tight-knit clouds
that refused to part. And the heart
concealed somewhere in his chest
had gotten louder. And now my own
blood pulsed and ran and sang.
He passed in a few seconds,
then came another, and another,
then another – like the heads of dead
daisies they dangled on a motorised chain.
So, I watched him off, how he swung,
his leg from an iron rung,
like a giant’s fingertips, half
in this world, half in some other.
I enclose the unborn lambs in a bin-liner
and throw them into the yard behind the slaughterhouse;
three miniature trinkets cut from the bowels
of an ancient ewe that O Grady can’t afford to feed.
All day through the fire escape’s wedge of light and air
their oiled bodies beam from a plastic flap as July sun pours
on bloody concrete and they ferment into tatty stuffed-teddys.
While their condemned mothers ride the steel shackles
in condemned silence, O Grady waits for his cheque.
Your face appears when the phone rings, the way
it always does, smiling, captured and illuminated
in Glenmalure Spring. The phone sings
“The Day We Caught the Train”, and when I swipe
the green icon to hear your voice I’m greeted with agony:
snotty spurts, in-audible sniffling, the language of grief –
your creation. I could leave this place of death,
to find you still inconsolable on the front step,
or tearing down the nursery we built together, filling
plastic bags with gender-neutral teddy-bears.
Or stay in the abattoir, as if one with the slain,
its entrails exposed, forever deaf, numbing as silence.
Clifton Redmond is a student at Carlow College – St Patrick’s, and a member of the Carlow Writers’ Co-operative. His work has appeared in online and print journals, and has been placed in various competitions and awards