It was my task to call the cows at milking time.
I’d amble down the summer road,
tipping at grasses with an unnecessary stick.
On reaching the gate, I’d take a breath
and let my voice ring out like morning across the day.
I’d see their heads first –
stone stalwart rising above the curve of the tiny field –
then their mighty shoulders, bony haunches,
udders tight and full,
knees striking each other like flint,
their dark eyes large on mine.
We’d walk the road together to the farm;
one small girl
striding before a cluster of elderly hungry cows;
the knowledge of warm, spiced meal in their nostrils
driving them up and on.
Flighty girls – regardless of their age –
swinging their heavy heads, duncing one another,
like schoolgirls aiming to be first.
Later I’d walk them back;
they’d be skittish now – well fed and less awkward in their step –
their long heads raised to the scent of grass,
pushing to get past me through the gate and graze.
One quiet night in October when the years had fallen away,
the farm became mine alone.
Arriving home that night, and sad,
I stood a moment in the falling dusk,
and turned to see a heifer, richly red,
walk silently towards me from the mist,
her dark eyes large on mine.
She was not skittish as a lost or wandering animal would often be
but stood patiently beyond my car, observant and at ease.
We stood there in a silence that was quieter than the mist allowed
acknowledging this for what it was.
I turned my head a moment
and when I looked up, she was gone.