Issue 7 – McCauley

Carole Spearin McCauley

Dairy-Barn Birth

This hot-tongued Jersey sands my hand.
She stands, then bawls—so steamy warm—
awaits the calf that can’t be born.
She stomps her straw’s ammonia smell.
Her muscled ears I stroke. Beneath
her tail the straw’s so wet. “The sac,
it broke,” says Sarah. Two blackest
hooves protrude. “It’s breech, and stuck.

You get the rope.” This Sarah—still a
farmer’s girl—who knows just what
to do. What Sarah says, you do.
On tiny hooves I knot rough rope,
then tighten. “Pull,” calls Sarah. Her boots
and shirt and skirt are dripped with blood.
Like Sarah wants, I pull. Poor beast, it groans.
I wince—she’s caught in tempo bold as pain.

“The vet?” says someone. Sarah sighs.
Her glove invades, rotates limp legs.
“I am the vet, for here. Stop, no!
When she contracts, you pull.” Again
I pull—a scowl from Sarah. “God,
the help they send me now! Don’t know
their push from pull.” Con-tract—I pull
at blood and bone. Recalcitrance

of calf that can’t get born by yanking it
in two? While Sarah strokes the bawling
beast, out I drag more hooves. And legs
and head. We cut the cord. Then ease
the calf near mother’s thrusting tongue.
“Not bull—it’s heifer,” Sarah says,
“ ’cause bulls get vealed—or ground.” We all
get ground by something
, I decide,

still muscle-bound in push and pull.
While Sarah tends the afterbirth,
we hug the cow, then give her hands
of grain and grass. And lift our calf
                         to suck.