The calf born out of season

waits in her stall

for the bottle I bring,

hides behind a post

as I enter,

bangs her twisting head against wood

fighting the rubber nipple

when I try to give her suck


The sounds of my boots and her hooves

struggling in scattered dung and hay

subside to steady slurping

under a solitary bulb


Waiting for her to finish,

I watch the steam from our throats

rise to the rafters of the old barn


By now the fire I lit

before I bent my head

into wet November wind

has settled into quiet coals


Soon, I’ll warm myself by it

and grieve for us both


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