Sheep bones litter these pastures:

a frame of ribs,

a crooked spine,

skulls amongst thistles

bone-white, black-toothed

a loose jaw, a snag of fleece.

Once, in a bush in a morass of swamp,

a whole skeleton,

head thrown back,

mouth open, fixed in one last, long bleat.

From a ridge a small flock stare unblinking,

watch while another sheep dies:

the slow, shallow breathing,

dagged fleece,

a fatal bloating.

I have thought to take a skull,

polish the hard bone between the eye-sockets,

set it on an oak table,

an ornament, a centre-piece, a talking point,

but rams-horns bode evil

and moonlight burnishes teeth.

Jeremy Duffield