On a seventy day rural sojourn I started to appreciate the lot of farmers …and their livestock. Floods had recently destroyed much farmland. sheep prices were (and are) a pittance. One day I cycled up to the local mart and wondered could my photographer friend take some shoots for her degree course exercises at the mart.
Permission was given but what was I to do, except kick my (cold) feet. I walked all around the mart in an attempt to keep warm. While i wandered about I got a few lines in my head. Those rhyming lines quickly turned into this poem. It gave me much pleasure to see it later published on the THAT’S FARMING website…
Trailered jeeps enter Roscrea auction mart,
metal gates clang open, absent bleeding hearts;
booted farmers gather, lean on freezing fences,
– will sheep sales cover climbing feed expenses?
Gathered, these men mutter: poor grazing weather,
lambs sadly slain by stray dogs, arteries severed.
Stubborn sheep exit steps of transport ramps,
some look freshly showered, others rural tramps,
colour marked cream wool, faces black as soot
– mart concrete floor so very cold underfoot;
stage-frightened ewes in circled auction ring,
echo auction-call faster than rappers sing.
Tongue-twisted numbers, rattled off in speed,
bids almost secret, old men in capped tweed;
occasionally sheep make maiden warbling speech,
quick-hammered lots, exit gate opening squeak;
sellers seated stoically on timbered concrete steps,
quietly conversing, half-anticipating sales cheques.
Animal urine spray, shit-splattered all surfaces,
sheep loaded up, predestined for new purposes;
I’m not Journal reader, rarely hear rural news,
regarding Irish farm policy, I haven’t got a clue
– but for my daily food, I rely on farms alone:
tender lamb-chop treats, nibbled down to bone.
Know your sheep by name; carefully attend to your flocks; (Don’t take them for granted; possessions don’t last forever, you know.) And then, when the crops are in and the harvest is stored in the barns, you can knit sweaters from lambs’ wool, and sell your goats for a profit; There will be plenty of milk and meat to last your family through the winter.
– Proverbs 27: 23 – 27
Dedicated to Ray Dempsey, Chairman, Roscrea Central Auctions