Cows at Night. And at Morning
May 29, 2013 § 7 Comments
This morning I was out early, preparing a fresh paddock for the cows’ daily grazing pleasure. It’s hero pasture now, a sea of cow candy everywhere you look, thick, verdant, top-of-shin high. It’s hard to remember that it won’t last forever, that in just a few months we’ll be scheming on how to squeeze a couple extra weeks out of the grass to cut down on the hay bill. But damn this is exactly what I love about this place: The seasonality of everything and the obscure rural ingenuity it demands.
So anyway. There I was, and it was that sort of milky, half-light of pre-dawn, and I was standing by the fence line admiring our motley herd, all of them sleek and glossy and filled-out, not a rib to be seen. And just at that moment, just as I was about to drop the wire that stood between them and that enviable, concentrated contentment that is unique to grazing bovine, it softly – very softly – began to rain. And I thought of this poem by Hayden Carruth, which is approximately my favorite poem ever (which given the volume of poetry I’ve exposed myself, is not saying terribly much). By the way, my second, third, fourth, and fifth favorite poems were all written by this guy.
Here you go. Enjoy.
The Cows At Night
The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light
faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.
Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist
of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw
the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.
I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad
and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them–forty
near and far in the pasture,
turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad
because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.
But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how
in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then
very gently it began to rain.