Lion: Look at the circles under my eyes. I haven't slept in weeks.
Tin Woodsman: Why don't you try counting sheep?
Lion: That doesn't do any good. I'm afraid of them.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Fearful of sheep? Baaa. Then again,
maybe it's not that crazy a notion,
for what more remorseless soldierly
beast is there than the sheep?
From their dirty flea-ridden wool
to their grass-stained teeth (you think
Agent Orange a potent herbicide?—
watch a legion of ovine, horn-headed
mercenaries field-strip a pasture);
the pale timorous bleating of their young
and clop-clop-clopping feet
so nicely turned out
in caligulae, or little black boots
to the moist thunder of their rumen
and sticky caltraps of dung;
but most of all the sheer implacable
amount of them,
to say nothing of their patience
the entire endless uncounted lot
queued up all the way back to infinity
waiting for a simple turn to jump
over the barricade, the metric
of fence and insomnia—with no more
encouragement, reward, or slap of thanks
than the assignment of a mere number—
or even worse, a desultory round of snores.
What general, dreaming of animal reichs
or chancellorships still to come, would
knowingly look askance at such recruits?
What nation would not quiver seeing an army
of sheep on the horizon—no matter how
huge its reserve of mint jelly or love
of lamb chops?