John Kinsella

On Contemplating a Sheep’s Skull
September 15, 2011 Kinsella John

On Contemplating a Sheep’s Skull

‘Wie mich geheimnisvoll die Form entzückte!’ -Goethe

 

Skull aged so much in rain and heat,
broken jawbone and chipped teeth half-
gnaw soil; zippered fuse-mark tracks
back to front, runs through to base
of neck, widening faultline under
stress: final crack close at hand.

Skull I can’t bring myself to move.

White-out red soil unearthed
from hillside fox den and cat haven,
now hideaway for short-beaked echidna
toppling rocks and stones, disrupting
artfulness a spirit might impose,
frisson at seeing counterpoint.

Skull I can’t bring myself to move.

Sometimes avoid the spot to avoid
looking half-hearted into its sole
remaining eye socket; mentally to join
bones strewn downhill, come apart
or torn from mountings years before
arriving with good intentions.

Skull I can’t bring myself to move.

Not something you can ‘clean up’,
shape of skull is not a measure of all
it contained: weight of light and dark,
scales of sound, vast and varied taste
of all grass eaten from these hills;
slow and steady gnawing at soil.

Skull I can’t bring myself to move.

Neither herbivore nor carnivore,
earth and sky-eater, fire in its shout
or whisper, racing  through to leave a bed
of ash on which the mind might rest,
drinking sun and light and smoke,
choked up with experience.

Skull I can’t bring myself to move.

Drawn to examine
despite aversion, consider
our head on its shoulders,
drawn expression
greeting loved ones
with arms outstretched.

John Kinsella’s new collection of poetry is Firebreaks (W. W. Norton, 2016). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.