Timothy Steele

(1948 / Vermont / United States)

Georgics - Poem by Timothy Steele

The heavy Holsteins, patterned white and black,
The milder Jerseys, in fawn-colored coats,
Would graze the river meadows, green beneath
The clouds' immense, white, forward-leaning floats.

And when the air was heavy they lay down,
An augury, or so folk wisdom held:
The afternoon was building to a storm;
By nightfall we would all be wetly shelled.

They plodded to the barn at milking time;
We'd shoulder and push back the sliding door.
The border collie yapping at their heels,
Their hooves clopped in across the concrete floor.

And so they had their few days in the sun -
Then, long months stanchioned in a filthy stall,
Consuming a grim winter's worth of hay
And destined to be slaughtered after all.

It's futile to indulge in litanies
About the cruelties of man, and yet
Those creatures served us, and it's hard to think
Without shame or a spasm of regret

Of how they grazed, contented, by the river
And lifted us their huge, attentive eyes
Or, forelegs in the water, bowed to drink
And shook their broad flat foreheads free of flies.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, June 24, 2017

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