I wasn’t there. I heard this second hand, much later,
but textbooks show the methodology, the diagrams
for several presentations and for monstrous deviations
from the norm. For calves long dead in situ and for those
just recently deceased. For calves too big or those
whose odd shape makes their birth impossible.
So, let’s return to games with butter at the kitchen table
carving summer scrolls and corrugations, watching
beads of sweat emerging from the surface.
Look at the four of us, you’re telling the story.
My chair on two legs tilted on the dresser, and yours
steady by the Rayburn. You can’t remember much—
was it by the cedar of Lebanon or in the beech wood?
You mime the act of sawing. I wasn’t there
but I recall the field which had that slope, so steep
it made the little Fergie roar. The throttle out so far
the blue smoke coughed in rapid puffs and plumes.
The vet had laid his tools out in the field:
two buckets full of lubricant, three of warm water,
a hand pump, krey hook and a calving chain,
a length of braided saw wire with its introducer.
It was raining, water trickled through her hair.
Your hand on her flank felt the fat she’d come to,
her vulva swollen with two feet emerging.
Hooves, dew claws, pastern joints all faded yellow,
like the white rat I’d dissected in biology. She lay
in the copse under the beech trees, I wasn’t there
but beech mast crunched each time you moved your feet.
I’ve read how it’s done. I know the technicalities,
the rough dismemberment, and what that leaves you with.
Winner of the 2017 Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition
rain is falling under sodium lights
the municipal toilet roof is bathed in gold
up station street the tarmac shines and little rivers
writhe and coil along the roadside gutters
it’s late the traffic light in broken pieces
scatters across the deserted lane
in amber, red, red and amber, green
in all the houses darkness slowly deepens
in this town on a night like this my heart
glitters each footfall takes me nearer
to your bed and to the dark where I will
lie with you this little time I thought
it could not be like this but I was wrong
walking on light and water coming home
from Hangman's Acre, Shearsman Books, 2009