Cows

 

Another perfect day. I lean back
to see in the blue drift

a buzzard wheeling. Trees lean
into me and my eyes invite them in,

toes grasp and curl grass like a cat
kneading, and over there

in the next field, in that dark shed
cows are crying. All night they cried

sometimes in unison, sometimes one –
plaintive, high-pitched – pierced

the darkness with the sound a woman
makes when everything is stripped

away and there’s nothing left to lose –
how I might cry in a dark place,

when no one can see my face.
(Crying? So emotive. How do I know?)

And the fact is that I don’t know
their language – never learned it,

never listened as I’ve watched them
making their journey through the world,

like I do. I know they cry when their calves
are taken from them, how they stay awake

for one, two nights, calling.
I know they do not know what it is

not to be pregnant, give birth,
lose their baby, have their milk stolen.

I’ve seen calves necked in spiked collars
like fiendish halos slipped – unable, then,

to suckle. But these are thoughts.
This is not what my heart is doing, now,

listening through the lightless shed
unable to return to the bright sky

the free bird. As if these things
are spied through small slats. 

As their cries, their callings rise
through soft air, I realise that no sound

ever made – that ever will be made –
dies.

 

 

Sue Proffitt

 

Open After Dark  is available from Sue direct  or overstepsbooks.com


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