Counting Sheep in Cumbrian
That afternoon we learned to count in Cumbrian
and began by counting the sheep on the Knott.
“Yan, tyan, tetherer.”
Like herbivores rolling watery stalks through
their grassy jaws, we chewed on the words
from yesterday’s herds that our world forgot.
“Methera, pimp, sethera.”
Clicking on consonants like wives clacked
on needles, counting seconds with stitches,
and homecoming steps of their men on the fells.
“Lethera, hoverer, dovera.”
That evening we lay in a meadow of bluebells,
counting minutes till bedtime in fluffed
swells of cloud, puffing up the vowels.
“Dick, yan-a-dick, tyan-a-dick. ”
That night we ran with Herdwick,
leaping the ditches, leaving swatches of day
behind on barbed wire, flinging numbers
in the air like the spring lambs at play.
That lunchtime over roasted lamb,
we counted our peas, giggly and pleased.
“Bumfit! Yan-a-bumfit, tyan-a-bumfit.”
That afternoon we counted the raindrops
on the leaves as the world unfurled through
steamed-up panes of the café in the bay,
watching white horses drag the bore
down the sinking sands of a shifting shore.
“Tethera bumfit, methera bumfit.”
But then, after “Giggot,” we couldn’t go on.
Unsure of the existence of twenty one.
“Yan-a-giggot?” we shouted, into the breeze.
“Yan, tyan,” the sheep bleated a belated reply,
counting Cumbrian kids in their sleep. You and I.