ode to a cow

dawn: gray and silver, chill frost.
cold pail.
the morning is painted in metal: gold, platinum, silver
and earth: ochre, umber, black, and soil.
the hinges of the handle of the pail creak and jingle.
small cloven hooves of caprines skip over the pale grass.
the cattle lift their heads, massive furzy heads
with tufts of dark hair, light hair, cow licks.
they lick furzy lips, tasting the memory of grain
and move as one toward me.
gold creeps above the treeline.
eight geese fly over, their wings like slingshots,
flinging air, then a single cry and they’re gone.
i set breakfast for the calves and goats
and lead the cow inside, her calf just there.
he sniffs the pail and huffs and collapses in the hay,
his stomach full, her front quarter empty.
the stool sits next to her flank, the pail against her hoof
and her right rear begins to drip, a soft plink on the side,
the cold silver pail trembles.
we go to work, she and i, my hands moving to the rhythm of her
chewing.
sometimes the beat of the milk brings a song.
folk song.
oh, susannah.
shenandoah.
and the world stops. it’s just the cow and me
and that cold pail
in the cold pale.