In which I share a poem for the season: the talking animals

Cathryn Wellner is a storyteller, poet, and farmer. She wrote this poem about an incident that happened on her farm in Alberta, Canada, and she posted the poem to a storyteller's listserv last month. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to share it. She kindly gave permission.

Stock Talk Christmas Eve


One wintry night the relatives
Were gathered in our barn.
They'd all come from their city homes
For Christmas at the farm.

'Twas Christmas Eve, and just before
The wassail was passed 'round,
We donned our coats and headed down
To hear the magic sound

Of animals at midnight,
For then the power of speech
Is given to all sheep and cows,
Or so I'd heard it preached.

My husband, he was skeptical,
The relatives amused.
They figured I'd gone round the bend
Since donning country shoes.

But to the barn they gamely trooped.
They'd humor me this time.
We flipped the switch and walked into
A scene that was sublime.

The sheep were calmly bedded down.
They looked, then turned away,
For we'd disturbed their peaceful rest
And hadn't brought them hay.

I thought of tales of talking beasts.
"Let's sing to them!" I cried.
Embarrassed silence met my plea.
"Let's not," my husband sighed.

No word came from those woolly heads.
I blushed and murmured low,
"They prob'ly talk when we're not here.
I guess we'd better go."

Then coming from a darkened stall,
We heard a little cry,
Soon followed by a throaty one
That pulled us to draw nigh

And watch a newborn struggle up
To reach her mother's teat.
She crumpled, rose, and tried again
On tiny cloven feet.

While ewe and lamb crooned soft and low,
We cleared our throats and sang
Of friendly beasts and silent nights
And bells that angels rang.

Then all the livestock in the barn
Began to bleat and crow
And oink and quack and gobble
In the languages they know.

The relatives fell silent
Till one softly observed,
"That's the closest thing to talking
This city dude has heard."

So maybe friendly beasts don't speak
In English or Chinese,
But if you listen close
You'll hear them talk on Christmas Eve.




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