Father David


Caldey Island

Father David ran the Island farm,
mainly pigs, some sheep, some cows;
had broad fingers,
nails wider than they were long
better suited to labour than prayer;
had a nap after lunch every day
summer or winter on the bench
by the back door of the monastery;
herded the sows
with a strong stick, flailed them
on the back and on the nose
with biblical violence, learned perhaps
at his holy Father’s knee;
pulled out jammed lambs;
fed the mollies;
sheered and dipped with pragmatic ease;
corralled the sheep on a bucking tractor
rounding them up to the promised land.

Father David had a sense of humour
quoted comic verse and joked a lot,
squeezed through the narrow gap
into the bull pen to feint
an attack on Claude the bull
his arms raised like great horns,
rushing for the escape slit when Claude responded,
tempting, I suspect,
the Almighty’s commitment to protect him.
Such is the habit of a monk,
to trust and to test.


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