Shearing Season (and other poems)

Shearing Season

When the fleshy clefts healed 
in the lambs’ ears, finely edged 
with fur, I knew it was time 
and grabbed a sheep by the leg. 
I flipped her to her back, binding 
her ankles with baling twine,
tossed her excrement aside, 
snipped at her knees and thighs, 
then released the twine to stretch her wide, 
rolling back her greasy coat.  
Along the tender outskirts of her belly, 
flecks of skin populated the wool—
by holding the body too taut, 
tenting the skin in the pivot point 
of the shears, I etched tilted windows 
into her, revealing lavender veins
over a pearl backcloth of fat. 
No blood, but her breath caught 
each time. The trick, I know now, 
is to pull the skin down, nestling 
your fingertips against the blade, 
and cut as closely to the pelt as you can. 
Cut the new sheep out of her that way.

Topography of a Dream

I used to think my son said mama 
until I realized it was his word for car, 
or for the sound he thinks it makes—
muh-muh-muh. Each day, we idle 
in the driveway and he plays with the radio 
while I wait for the world to be safer.
He has no interest in its intended utility
until we drive to a lake, where he startles 
at the expanse and the wind 
whips his face pink and snotty.
He shrieks with the gulls hanging 
above us like marionettes
and I shut my eyes to etch
the sound into my bones. 
Again and again these days,
I dream my feet are concrete
and I look just in time to see him 
twirl away from some glittering fender 
like a ribbon in a breeze.
Unable to move, to catch him, 
I slump to my knees. I’ve made a rule 
for myself: I don’t write the same childhood 
scenes anymore, not the ones I once considered 
evidence of some suffering, now that I know 
the most painful part of mothering
is learning how loved you were. 
In the dream, both of us sick with grief, 
I drive my mother to a barn filled with owls. 
Cats spiral the creaking floor, driven 
by duty and hunger, keeping watch 
as we try to wade in. The owls know, 
she says. I like to think I’m not alone
in my dreams, that other souls 
slip in to guide or comfort, 
but I’ve been told that each figure 
flickers a light over the self.
And it’s not too hard to see my self
in the car that brings us here;
in the barn that holds us all. 
In the owls and the cats,
my son in the road,  
the truck that refuses to slow; 
and my mother
catching me as I fall.


  • Clara Strong was born in Virginia and grew up in New Hampshire and Indiana, both of which often feature in her poetry. She received her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2020, and is presently working to finish her first collection of poems. Her work has appeared in Rascal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in southern Indiana with her husband, their two children, and a handful of rambunctious chickens.

  • These illustrations for the 1906 French edition of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds are by Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa. Not a great deal is known about Corrêa, who died of tuberculosis at age thirty-four, only a few years after the illustrations featured here were published. During the first decade of the twentieth century, as The History Blog puts it, Corrêa “developed a style of strong contrasts and dynamic movement in both drawing and painting,” returning again and again to themes of “eroticism and violence individually and in combination”. Reading The War of the Worlds in 1903, Corrêa saw a work perfectly suited to his talents and obsessions. He did several illustrations of the book “on spec” and traveled to London to show them to Wells, who was apparently so impressed he invited him to illustrate the new Belgian edition of Davray’s translation. “Alvim Corrêa”, Wells said after the artist had died, “did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen”. See The History Blog at and The Public Domain Review at