We used to keep the goats for milk and meat, but now they’re mostly pets. Mum says she has got too old to take the billy kids to slaughter. I never realised it was such a big deal, but maybe I’d feel different now. We’ve all got older.
It was Mum who noticed the growth on Primrose’s udder, when she was taking the goats out for their first day on the field. They winter in their shed. I came out in my pyjamas to check. I held Primrose’s horns while Mum knelt down by her back end and tried to feel. She was feeling guilty about not having seen it before.
The vet came later that day. I was busy inside and missed her knock, so it was Mum who took her round back. Primrose was back in her stall and not wanting to be disturbed, so they climbed in with her. The vet squeezed a mess of pus out of the udder onto the straw. She’d brought an apprentice with her who took over holding the goats head while she showed Mum the injection sites for the antibiotics: One low on the flank and one between the back ribs. Right into the muscle. The one into her back made Primrose’s back legs buckle. Mum said we wouldn’t be trying that one again. She asked if she should squeeze the udder again and the vet said maybe it would help. The apprentice stroked Primrose’s head and told her she’d been brave.
The vet left us with a collection of ready made syringes and a bottle of milky liquid which we had to measure out ourselves. Mum told me she couldn’t face stabbing in the needle.
Primrose is our oldest goat. We’re not sure exactly how old she is, because she was one of Mum’s rescues. She came with a small black haired sister, their owner claiming that they couldn’t care for them any longer. The sister died soon after. She was in a stall with Primrose and we worried that it was Primrose keeping her from her food, but they’d always been stalled together before. Primrose is our only goat with horns. She rubs and sharpens them against her stall door. By the end of the winter they are worn down to the quick and ooze blood. We also worried Primrose had battered her sister to death.
The morning after the vet’s visit, Mum and I went out to the field. I took the two syringes and Mum took a jug of warm water washed through with iodine. We divided our labours. The first needle went in relatively easily. I was frightened of hurting her and my hand shook a little. Goat skin is thick and it is work to push the needle through. She flinched and bucked a little, but Mum held her and I wrapped her tether chain around my foot to save her bolting. The second needle was larger and wouldn’t take, so I swapped the needles over to get the medicine in.
We swapped places as Mum washed the wound. Primrose kicked back, but Mum moved around and got a good amount of water over the udder. Mum said she’d closed her eyes while I gave the injections. I told her I couldn’t look at the sore. The teat hung dark and small. Neither of us offered to squeeze the udder.
Sally Alexander lives on a small holding in South Norfolk. She is finishing her first novel and writes poems when things can’t be said in prose.Read More
I went looking for them
In the empty room
Where the sad music was playing
And a woman’s voice was singing
Of the deaths of children.
There’s a single window
Hung with cobwebs
Where half sketched faces
Look in through the glass
Seeking their childhoods
Those lost toys.
They find them laid out on a table
Hands, feet, heads, mouths
The folded skin suits
But the smiles are left out.
In another room a child is laughing.
Here there’s no such sound.
Your brother is painting his night world
Your sister is sleeping in his cold bed.
What is it you’re whispering
Across these polished spaces?
What secret fear flutters behind the mask?
What fury flaps its wings at your back?
Stop all this nonsense
Crawl back under the sheets
Your mothers and fathers don’t know what they do.
But when the lights are switched off
And the bedroom door’s locked
And nobody’s watching
You can come out to play
Set the silver top humming.
Tell the scary tale.
David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and children’s novelist. His latest novel The Map of Marvels is published by OUP. He works on a project making poetry with people with dementia and is currently writing a play for Midland Actors Theatre based on stories by Chekhov. This is his website.
Helping My Son With His GCSE Poetry Homework
Built like a flanker, swearing like a football-dad
it’s four Weetabix to a bowl,
Fifa scores with strangers
and show-me-the-money demands
while I search for his hoodie.
Any excuse for some joshing, he’s there,
pretending the fridge is a lineout,
sending me crashing with a nudge.
But the six-year-old in him still
grabs at sweeties, Friday night treats.
His last year at primary I shuffled
to keep up with him before chemo,
his questions about death
pricking my eyes, about the time
we stopped kissing goodbye at the gates.
Anthony Wilson is a poet, writing tutor and lecturer. Riddance is forthcoming from Worple Press in September 2012. Love for Now, a prose memoir, is due from Impress books in the same month. He can be found online at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com and twitter: @awilsonpoet
Poet, comedian, visionary – these are just some of the words that Andy Bennett can spell. If Beauty is Truth, and Truth Beauty, Andy has an honest face and an ugly bio, and should never be trusted with valuables.
Two rings and I snatch up the receiver,
static crackles and curses on the line
scouring my ear drums .
I just make out a Lilliputian voice ,
and shriek ‘How did you get on?’
Your response is a tiny urgent whine.
After a few more attempts at making contact
I end the call like an unsuccessful séance.
And I wonder if this is why I cannot hear
my late mother trying to make the first move
or grandmother passing judgement on new friends,
their efforts jammed by the scraunch and hiss of white noise.
Fiona Sinclair reviews for numerous poetry magazines including IS&T and Happenstance. She is the editor of the online poetry magazine Message in a Bottle. Hew second pamphlet A Game of Hide and Seek is out now from Indigo Dreams.Read More
Writing and Reading
For years I thought my mother couldn’t write.
My father wrote the notes for milkmen,
signed time-sheets, notes of sympathy,
reasons for absence, postcards from Ireland.
And, when he was too old, too ill to write,
my sister wrote the signature she’d learnt
to forge at school. So, I don’t know why,
when it came, I knew my mother’s writing,
held her letter unopened in my hand
as if I couldn’t read –
Rebecca Farmer’s work has been published widely, most recently in The North and The South Bank Magazine. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths.Read More
Paul Bluer : ‘I haven’t really got a Bio as such. I try to write things that I like to read, I take pleasure experimenting and hope a few other people enjoy the odd bit of my output too.’