The Farmer’s Prayer

He lies across the cow’s prone side and prays for healing.
Smooths her flank, half-expecting some bright heat,

a glowing surge to match his prayer,
a vision of angels, a chorus of song.

Beside them lies her calf, warm and slick,
already dead, perfect head on blood-stained straw.

In the yard, rain drips from asbestos roofs,
floods every trench,

falls between cracks above his head
tapping relentlessly his tightened back.

She was his best cow. He’d raised her on a bottle,
and ever since she’d run to him —

even lately, lumbering on inflamed feet, hauling that old pregnant womb,
to blow grass-sweetened blessings into his hands.

Now she’s dead. The vet will come,
test the herd — they’re all infected.

How many pyres must one man see in his lifetime?
Black smoke billowing like oil spills set ablaze.

How many gallons of disinfectant — desperate washing
to ward off the disease that bursts from blisters,

floats its spores, places them like wafers
into the mouths of all living creatures,

interleaving infections between each strand of straw,
layer upon layer, like peat bog over millennia.

This lowly stable. Made for nothing now
except the laying out of calf and cow.



Zannah Kearns works as a freelance copywriter, and also reviews poetry pamphlets for Sphinx. Her poems can be found in Poetry Birmingham Journal, and Under the Radar.  Twitter:@zannahkearns