artwork: ralph murre
by John Flynn
The mountain barn
low, close and warm
held fast the wild horned
lined up to milk.
Within the mangers kittens woke
and used the shaggy, rolling heads
to hide behind and play their games.
So little of the morning’s breaking light leaked in
that chores were done by touch
and so familiar were the sounds
(metallic when the streams of milk were
squeezed against the pail’s wall and wooden
when a startled cow would jerk her head
against the smoothworn rope that held her)
that one could watch in darkness
and view dusty dreams of olden times
before and afterwards.
Milking done, a girl slid back the door
and farther out undid the wired gate
for the mudded walk to pasture.
Each wary cow would pause
and look about, wide eyed and dumb,
before she slipped her haunches
through the hole and tumbled
from the steaming shed.
The girl stood back and pitched a cow chip at
the last brown beast that ambled past,
shadow spotted by the trees.
~ first published by the Gilcrease Museum of Western Art