Sheep in the Winter Night: A Poem for the Holiday Season

I live in a place where neighbors keep sheep, and I see them trance-weaving through the fields regularly, huddled together and wandering apart. Here’s a lovely poem, thoughtful and funny and I think very spiritual, about sheep on a cold winter night, keeping watch in their own way! The simple language and the stunning way he earns the power of the last few lines makes it also a teaching poem for me — this is the way poetry should be done!

Sheep in the Winter Night
by Tom Hennen

Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one
another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening
in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked
weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought
of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they
eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have
just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian
religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were
full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their
white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods,
night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering,
along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes,
but the power that moves through the world and makes our
hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.

“Sheep in the Winter Night” by Tom Hennen, from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013.

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