peppered ewe, Jordan Behr (ed. R. Wilson for the OPR)
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peppered ewe, Jordan Behr (ed. R. Wilson for the OPR)

 

pepperedi eweii
as you slap itiii on his back
you realizeiv
they had chattered in the veldt,
bit on the same stalked fodder.v
is it grotesquevi
for them to canter back to back?

 

NOTES

i From the Oxford English Dictionary: peppered, adj. Sprinkled or seasoned with pepper. Also fig. in various senses: sprinkled with small dots like grains of pepper, pelted with shot, etc., †infected with venereal disease (“pepper, v. 5b”) (obs.).

ii The alert reader will note that “peppered ewe” slant rhymes with “peppadew,” a brand of pickled sweet peppers, introduced to the United States and Europe from South Africa in the 2000s by pepper magnate Phil Ovens.

iii Author’s email to the editor from 15 October, 2011: “I was thinking about the unlikely and gross joinery/ of throwing pelts as blankets on horses when you ride them.”

iv Moment of anagnorisis in the poem.

v  The author imagines this scene as a poetic rejoinder to the query, “did he know the sheep in life?” (author’s email to the editor on 15 October, 2011).

vi The author not only asks whether the action is in itself “grotesque” from an anthropocentric standpoint, but also “whether the horse or whatever you’re riding knows or cares” (email to the editor, 15 Oct. 2011). The poem asks how the rider can possibly access the affective and moral perspective of the horse or other pack animal vis-à-vis the ewe or other herd animal. Does the rider force the plundered sheep skin onto the outraged horse, or does the horse desire the ewe’s disarticulated pelt against his own intact and vital hide?