Friday, May 24, 2024

The Poetry Corner: Lamb


Michael Dennis Browne

By Norah Christianson

Michael Dennis Browne was born in England in 1940, and came to the United States in 1965. He has taught at various universities, including for thirty-nine years at the University of Minnesota, where he is an emeritus professor. He has three children, and lives in Minneapolis with his wife.


Michael Dennis Browne

Saw a lamb being born.
Saw a shepherd chase and grab a big ewe
And dump her on her side.
Saw him rub some stuff from a bottle on his hands.
Saw him bend and reach in.
Heard two cries from the ewe.
Two sharp quick cries like high grunts.
Saw him pull out a slack white package.
Saw him lay it out on the ground.
Saw him kneel and take his teeth to the cord.
Saw him slap the package around.
Saw it not move
Saw him bend and put his mouth to it and blow.
Doing this calmly, half kneeling.
Saw him slap it around some more.
Saw my mother watching this. Saw Angela. Saw Peter.
Saw Mimi, with a baby in her belly.
Saw them standing in a row
By the dry stone wall, in the wind.
Saw the package move.
Saw it was stained with red and yellow.
Saw the shepherd wipe red hands on the ewe’s wool.
Heard the other sheep in the meadow calling out.
Saw the package shaking its head.
Saw it try to stand. Saw it nearly succeed.
Saw it have to sit and think about it a bit.
Saw a new creature’s first moments of thinking.
Felt the chill blowing through me.
Heard the shepherd say:
“Good day for lambing. Wind dries them out.”
Saw the package start to stand. Get half-way. Kneeling.
Saw it push upward. Stagger, push. And make it.
Stand, standing.
Saw it surely was a lamb, a lamb, a lamb.
Saw a lamb being born!

In this poem about watching a lamb being born, Michael Dennis Browne simply states what he saw. He uses the word “saw” 24 times, and the word “I” never. He presents us with clear images without turning the poem into something with some grand theme or moral, nor does he include himself and his feelings. He is simply a camera. The only hint that he was awed by seeing the lamb being born is the exclamation point at the very end of the poem.

It’s seeing our world—everything that’s in it and everything that happens in it—that makes us more alive, makes us more part of this world. Train yourselves to see more, to notice more. You’ll be rewarded.

Tuesday, on the Shakespeare Theater grounds, I was standing just gazing up for no reason at all when I saw a very small owl in one of the white pines. A little owl! No more than three ounces! And that “seeing” gave me much more than three ounces of joy.


  1. Wonderful reflection on a winsome piece of poetry. Thank you. Too often we allow the meance of rushing around to get in the way of seeing, living, being…


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