Skip to content

April 27, 2011


by John

                 “Why do you seek the living among the dead?
                                                                     Luke 24:5

What might have been a fallen star,
glittering in the distance
became the dreaded sight—
A heifer in trouble, calving.

But she was dead, still warm,
her uterus prolapsed: half its length
inside out, entwined with torn

a useless vision consigned
to heartache, awe and abandon
with all thought
of her.

But the calf
must still be inside.
How was he lodged,
what went wrong?

I tried to push in and find him;
but tides of flesh kept me out.
I cut across the tissues with my knife,
opened her, loosing a wash

of blood, removed
and set aside the mass,
reached in to

He must be out, I thought, rising
to walk in circles around her
searching clumps of grass for him—
But nothing.

I left,
drove toward cows in the distance,
noticed in the woods
a small, dark form,

soggy and disheveled,
nursing the knob of a tree,
sucking anything to connect
with this world.

I caught and bound and carried him
home and called on the phone
for someone to take him:
Do you want a red baby brahma bull?

Cousin Rob said he’d sworn off bottle-raising calves,
but a brahma bull—too much to resist.
Save him for me, he said,
I’ll be by.

In the pen, he sucked the boards, posts, climbed
through the shed, sucking things stored there;
sucked my hands, my pants, the gate as I tricked him
to escape.

Colostrum, I thought,
is out there in her.
He won’t be worth a shit without it,
The old timers say.

I couldn’t go there again—but I couldn’t not go.
so I found the blue bucket on a shelf,
washed a cup and empty milk jug and
in ten minutes,

udder by udder,
I’m stripping out a dead cow
in the full light of day,
wondering who I am.

It comes cold with every grasp, hissing into the cup.
Fingers tired, I stop— add it to the jug,
continue, hands sticky, aching, keeping on
until there’s no more.

Warmed on the stove and poured in the bucket,
a minute later I’m coaxing a nipple into his mouth,
little teeth cutting me as I hold his muzzle,
squeeze his jaw open and shut till the rhythm catches

and soon he’s enlivened, autonomous,
tail wagging, tongue working,
swallowing the elixir
of life.

                                                   by Sean Sexton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

%d bloggers like this: