Andrea Selch


When spring comes, my father thinks of the calving:

Night after night someone must sleep in the barn,

and when it starts — in March — the nights still aren’t

above freezing, and the barn not much warmer.

How many nights was it him, he wonders,

the one in the coveralls waiting to hear

that groaning? Cows are dumb animals —

leave them alone and they’ll bungle the calving:

in the pasture in the early morning they’ll face

downhill and the calf will get stuck. “Turn around

dammit Addie,” he said the one time, on his way

home for breakfast, it started to happen,

and pushed at her sweaty flank, trying

to turn her like a spoke in a wheel,

but her feet stayed planted and she groaned more

and went on sweating and straining.

He reached inside her then, like he’d been taught,

arm slick with his spit then her mucous, and felt

for the calf, its front hooves first like two stones,

then its nose like a rubber eraser, and pulled all he could.

But nothing budged and the cow went on groaning

until, as dusk fell, she died where she stood,

and the calf too, little bundle of sinews

and stony feet. When spring comes, my father thinks

if he had them, he would keep his coveralls on,

and due cows all day in the barn.