Helen Cook

Two Sheep

Lambing Shed, 2 am

I walk down to the lambing shed

smelt before seen

rank damp organic

it glows, a pool of honeyed light.

A still night

a bright blade of moon

scattering of stars

the air strafed by cold.


The ewes rustle in the musty straw

their bellies distended with wriggling life

they pant, silently eye this intruder

pupils slit like letter boxes.

I search for the one who has found

a corner, raking the ground

settles head thrown back

front legs set to take the strain.

She grunts shudders a black nose

bulges beneath her tail.

I cup my hand inside the hot squeeze

find the hooves pull gently.

Yellow sticky steaming

the lamb slips onto straw

soaked with birthing fluids.

Mother wickers and licks.

Flock’s breath ghosts the air

ice rimes the troughs

newborn nudges for a teat.

My fingers buried in oily fleece

we wait for the twin.


Waiting for the Woodpecker

This valley is a deep bowl

whipped with greens

scattered with dandelion seeds

where blackbird unspools

his evensong

swifts hunt end of day insects

crows loiter on

sycamore corners raucous with

laughter and threats

kites and buzzards circle

sharks in the sky shallows.

A ring of rapping

and there- a small dark wedge

digging for life in a die-back ash

evening woodpecker.

Soar float dip

soar float dip,

he lands in the apple tree

his red flash bright among the boughs

he talon grips the feeder

his slate bill rapiers peanuts

jab and jab and jab again

the back of his throat thick

with its coiled rope of tongue

head spots a blur of white.

Ten seconds-

he masters his fill

arrows his shape shrilling

across the pond- choking willows

to his drumming woods

as the trees pull the sun down

behind them.

Helen Cook lives near Llandysul, Ceredigion. Since retiring from teaching at the end of 2014, she has completed a BA in Creative Writing at Lampeter University and is now studying for an MA. She belongs to several writing groups, enjoys most forms of writing but poetry in particular. She has had some successes in competitions, gaining a 15th place in the International Welsh Poetry Competition 2018 and 6th place in this year's competition.  Also in 2018 she was shortlisted in the PenFro poetry competition. In 2019 she was runner up in the R.S. Thomas Poetry Festival competition.