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Calf Born in Snow
Patricia Gray

I can still hear the loud moan
in my grandfather’s kitchen,
where the woodstove was open
for the failing fire’s warmth, and
on the oven door, wrapped
in an old quilt, lay the new Charolais calf—
a twin that survived its snowy birth
that morning, though its brother died-
both of them the color of muddy snow,
this one too weak to stand.

We tried to feed him his mother’s milk,
but he seemed to forget he was eating
and slept, so that by ten that night, when
he raised his head suddenly, making
a loud maa-a-a-a sound, I could scarcely
believe it. “He’s getting better!”
Dad put his hand on my shoulder.
”Quiet. He’s dying,” was all he said—
old knowledge, deep as the Blue Mountains.
Still, I’d witnessed that final, wonderful
rallying, as if every ounce of life pulled
together to raise the calf’s head,
to leave his sound so indelibly there.

From Rupture (Red Hen Press).
Used with the author’s permission.



Patricia Gray grew up in the Shenandoah Valley and has lived in Washington, DC for twenty years. She received a master's degree from the University of Virginia, where she won the Academy of American Poets Prize. Patricia is the author of one book, Rupture, which was chosen by the Montserrat Review as one of the best books of poetry in 2005. Coordinator for many years of the Poetry at Noon program for the Library of Congress, Patricia continues to live and work on Capitol Hill, where she bothers her son continuously with questions about smart phones and laptops.

Post New Comment:
OH, this is a moving poem! I felt I was there--and I appreciate the fact that you incorporate both grief and a summons to life in one poem.
Posted 03/08/2012 03:41 PM
This evoked a physical response at the end - Oh!
Posted 02/21/2012 07:40 PM
Vivid and effective. Poor thing!
Posted 02/21/2012 04:48 PM
Thanks for posting this poem--thanks for writing it. It took me right into that kitchen.
Posted 02/21/2012 12:38 PM
We are drawn into and released from this scene so skillfully! It is a heartbreaking experience, but told in such a hauntingly beautiful way. Excellent work!
Posted 02/21/2012 09:51 AM
Linda Lee (Konichek):
Beautifully done,Patricia. There are always so many things that can go wrong at the birth of anything; that's why I always behold it as a miracle, when all goes well.
Posted 02/21/2012 08:47 AM
My goodness. What a poignant piece of poetry! Such vivid pictures etched "indelibly" in my mind. Wonderful!
Posted 02/21/2012 08:40 AM
What a fine poem. Bravo!
Posted 02/21/2012 08:32 AM
This is a wonderful--deeply moving poem.
Posted 02/21/2012 08:00 AM
o yes, it is definitely gut-wrenching...perfectly so...
Posted 02/21/2012 07:48 AM
beautiful poem
Posted 02/21/2012 07:28 AM

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