troubled with itching /
sheep rub and scratch their blissful /
fleeces: wool in wire /
Walking the South Downs Way last year, we met several shepherds. At this time of year, Easter, I find it moving to think of the paradox of one who is both shepherd and sheep.
You do not break the doors down
Of our bolted hearts.
You do not shake the walls down
Of our meagre shells & shelters.
The only way you know,
The only way you go
Into the grounded stable of our lives,
Into the wounded sheepfold of our souls
Is close to earth & down upon your knees.
Then & only then do you stand
In our benighted midst—
Right in the thick
Of your bewildered flock
(The cloven hooves & bleating mouths)
To keep us, Shepherd, in the steady gaze
Of your all-seeing eyes;
To graze us, Shepherd, in the mazy meadows
Of your green & boundless sheep-fields.
Sentinel & watchman, you rise
With lantern lofted high
Amid the mist & darkness
Of our fractured farms
To rescue us, to lift us in your arms.
You heed us, heal us,
Lead us, feed us
And rest your loving cross & crook
Upon our bowing backs.
Hear us, patient Prince with nought but thorns for crown.
Steer us, King & compass, Lord & lodestar clear.
Be near us, Lamb & Shepherd dear.
© Lizzie Ballagher