He wrote the method on a cardboard boxtop,
a Wheaties breakfast of champions boxtop;
propped it up so I could, step-by-step,
learn to shear dead ones.
The dead-ones that could be cut, so you
would never — allegedly — cut a live-one, see it
die by your hand, your slip-of-the-wrist.
The dead-ones that could be mishandled
without getting you kicked square in the ribs or balls;
the dead-ones that wouldn't bite your thigh
or blow snot in your face;
the dead-ones whose smell would make you sick,
whose dry eyes were glazed and without light.
And once I was done,
he would inspect each stroke's mark in the wool
to point out the nicks and second cuts
while I held them, my weight pressing against their stomachs,
forcing the dead air out of their lungs,
forcing belches out between their cold, dead lips,
forcing penance for my carelessness and lack of attention.
Then I hated him and hated sheepshearing
— cursed the animal whose death was my misfortune.
And when I cut them they would not bleed;
even though, I cut them deep.
Gerard Donnelly Smith