Gentle the Life Beneath

Loving the Hands
by Julie Suk, from American Life in Poetry: Column 377

The Shearing of Mr. CotswoldI could make a wardrobe
with tufts of wool
caught on thistle and bracken. 

Lost—the scraps
I might have woven whole cloth. 

Come watch, the man says,
shearing sheep
with the precision of long practice,
fleece, removed all of a piece,
rolled in a neat bundle. 

I’ve been so clumsy
with people who’ve loved me. 

Straddling a ewe,
the man props its head on his foot,
leans down with clippers,
each pass across the coat a caress.

His dogs, lying nearby,
tremble at every move—as I do,
loving the hands that have learned
to gentle the life beneath them.