On the Occasion of a Dying Sheep When Everything You Know About Rural Living is Never Enough

By Chila Woychik

for Maggie 2005-2019

image1-3I’ve not yet learned how to make the dying die easier. I’ve not yet learned to distinguish between farm animal and pet, between livestock and friend. (It’s the eyes.) How to make a lame sheep stand again, like she wasn’t fourteen and worn down from too many days. How to make a sheep drink when you’ve not been able to lead her to water. Or how to kick the marbled shit away from her backside as she lays on the last bed of straw she’ll ever know. I’ve not yet cultivated the art of digging a big hole in frozen ground, a burial crypt in a boneyard of past deaths. Put a gun to its head, they say. Pull the trigger, they say. It’s easy. Just like that. Gone. A carcass. I’ve lost the book on living the hard side of rural life, or maybe I never really had it, this city transplant pretending to be pioneer and proud. But worst of all, I’ve not yet learned, or never knew, how to say goodbye to wool and flesh, bones and black tender eyes.

German-born Chila Woychik has lived in the American Midwest most of her life. She has been published by Passages North, Cimarron, Portland Review, and others. She’s the recipient of a writing award from Emrys Foundation. She’s also the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review. Her essay collection, Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology, is forthcoming in 2020 by Shanti Arts Publishing.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Watercolor, Gouache, and Pen)

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