The calf born out of season

waits in her stall

for the bottle I bring,

hides behind a post

as I enter,

bangs her twisted face against wood

fighting the rubber nipple

when I try to give suck


The sounds of my boots and her hooves

struggling in scattered dung and hay

soon 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 at the house

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