(This poem was shortlisted in the Gloucestershire Poetry Society 2020 Open Poetry Competition)


It wasn’t much of a herding

Robert on his bike with a stick from the hedge

but the cows rolled home anyway, white-eyed

and manic, their rubber mouths dripping.

They lowed and shat, swung their udders

around bends, we thought they might topple.

All day on pasture, cropping and chewing

grass peppered with vetch, butter-cupped yellow

the bee heavy clover – and some grazed the hedge

took dog rose and elder, smacking their tails

against their fly-speckled legs. We felt pity and fear

skirted the edge with our heads bowed down

heard them heave and snort, paw up the ground

kept telling ourselves that we weren’t scared of cows.

In the cowshed at dusk

subdued in their cubicles, chewing the cud

we found maps on their backs, the quiver

of continents as they shifted their flanks

internal eruptions, acres of gas being farted

and belched. And sometimes we helped – spread straw

from the stack to soak up the piss, but there was always

the risk of a backward kick, still their jaws turned

and saliva dripped, and their udders kept filling

but they never got milked until morning. 

We watched the farmer twist on the silvery cups

relaxed to the moan of the pump, sensed the let down

as each cow was drained, made light,

ready to race to the meadow again.

2 thoughts on “Cows

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