Poetry at Sangam



Vollum 14578 by Brian Turner

On an oval-shaped island, halfway between Gairloch
and Ullapool, cold waters of the Minch in the distance,
the occasional ship steeling itself to Stornoway,
a flock of sheep, eighty strong, graze
among the emptied houses of men,
who are strangely absent, even in a land
where people are few to begin with,
there are none here. Not one.

It creates unease among the sheep,
who stand in the hard wind
both day and night, buffeted,
the conversations among them
understood in the angle of the head,
the slow blink of the eyes, and if a sigh,
well, it remains unseen under wool.

Still, how could they have seen this coming,
even in a world where the slaughter-house
waits in the end for each of them,
how could they have known this.

When the bombs burst
with an alien, mechanical sound,
the sheep bolt in the muscle,
tethers holding them taut in place
while the brownish, aerosol cloud
drifts its spores toward them,
sure as the virulent hand of death.

There is only so much pain
a body can withstand, only so much
undoing. Within days, they begin to die.

This was recorded by scientists, on 16mm
colour film. This is history.
It really happened. You can see it
for yourself. You can watch their jaws
mouthing upward toward God.