The usual builders’ rubble, buckled screws,

snapped trowel-heads, small chunks of plank,

the strips of broken two by two, the bottle-caps.

(Images of blokes in spring and summer sun

drilling, fixing, tamping, swigging.)

A foot or two, a generation lower,

the first sheep’s bones. My farming cousin

confirmed their species, and this had been

the slaughterhouse field, where sheep, pigs, cows,

would wait their entry to the abattoir.

(My father’s gang, living a street away as boys,

would listen to the squeals and bleating,

before the thud. The sudden laden silence.)

I wondered about those bones. So how

did they escape the slaughter? And for what?

Then suddenly a skull, a flat crushed skull

(my cousin said a lamb of two years old).

So what obscure extinction?

My daughter, nine years old, dealt with it

earnestly, calling the remnant “Larry”.

We buried him between the compost and the beans

and raised a simple cross.

Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA. He won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017 with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes. In the USA he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times in the last three years.

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