Jack and Arthur
by Leslie Ball
Jack and Arthur are twin lambs born just minutes ago.
Arthur looks exhausted
Eyes still cloudy with the womb he left behind
As if he hasn't completely arrived
As if he hovers between two worlds.
I want to cradle him gently,
Let him float in dreams mystery
Until he's ready to step into today.
By nature knows better.
Sheep give birth standing.
As gravity pulls the infant toward earth
A short drop breaks the umbilical cord.
A few inches still dangle from the newborns' bellies
Right now, mom is rapidly licking
Steadily cleaning her new wards,
Somewhere between tender massage and tough love.
Past generations who saw this believed that the animal actually
Brought their offspring to life by sculpting them with their tongues
Giving birth to the phrase "lick into shape."
This mother's tongue is rigorous, vigorous
Efficient and purposeful.
Already, Jack stands on wobbly legs
Poking his nose against mom's belly
In search of her udder.
When he finally locates his target and begins nursing,
A cheer erupts from the onlookers.
Now mom turns her attention to young Arthur
But the slightest nuzzle sends him toppling.
Once again, I want to scoop him up
But she knows what he truly needs.
She continues to push and prod him
Back onto his feet where she keep cleaning him,
Keep pushing, prodding,
Keep licking him into shape