The Friesians are calving again. It
is that season
of awaiting the difficult births. His father calls out
to fetch the jack and tooling iron:
tendrils of flesh dangle from her hinds as the first
hoof kicks through. If it is male, it will be sold for slaughter.
stolen away—dragged if necessary
by the legs—and locked with the others
in the wailing pen. For now, at least, there is one hoof
or leaving: either one is right. His father
jamming his hand in the throttled
to heave this bucking, usable thing into existence
before it slaps
headfirst onto the concrete.
There is always, like this, the miracle. Then
there is after.jj
News Herald, Woodhaven, NY, December 14, 2003jj
seen him Sundays stalking
the reservoir, out for the day (or night, it doesn’t matter)
negotiating castellated ridges, blue mantlesj
pine. Last week, the crack of his Winchester
scared a tree of mourning doves half-crazy,
and I went down to see if the old man was all right.j
the folds of brush, he stumbled
into the light, a whitetail fawn draped over his shoulder.
Deep down he must know the whole thing’s foolish:
some whim could drive him off a cliff.
But what else is there for him? He has
no kids, buried
his wife last year. I think of them togetherj
lumbering through high grasses:
her polished rifle
glinting, his dog let loose, waving their hands at me
couple drowning. They had a system:j
tap his knee once when the deer came close, twice
when he was pointed in the right direction,
her finger in circles across his thighj
to two or three o’clock, then tap three times
when the deer stepped into range, four times to shoot.
He must’ve memorized
of boots crackling in the brush.
(I’m sure he knows
the smaller, sharper crackling of the deer.) Some
I follow his trail to see what he does out there, how he’ll fare
in the endless mesh of ferns, the early
trudging up the hillock through the leaves.
And as we breathe the same
blown off the reservoir, it’s
as if I’m waiting for him
to disappear into the sunken goldenrod.
Waiting for him to duck down in some blindj
he knows exists, to turn and wave
or pull the trigger when he feels—who knows?—
his wife’s hand tap four times against his thigh.jj j
Not that they flourish
in hoarfrost, or flare up, bract
to bud, from blacktop
( I know
none will keep), but that each
meaning to, spreads its spiny
roots through chaff,
in cold clusters, tussocks
on ditch water, the sweet
decay found there.
j -from Other Latitudes