Thursday, July 23, 2009

Worms, Cows, and a Poem by Hayden Carruth

I wrote recently about the volunteer crop of wheat that surprised us this spring. The farmer who manages the fields around our house decided to harvest and add the green wheat to his already fat silage worms. Well, they're not really worms, they're actually huge plastic tubes of crushed and fermented plant stuff, taller than a person and stinking like garbage. But they look like worms, so that's what we call them.

After the plant stuff has gotten good and stinky, it is fed to cows. Trucks come and empty out the worms little by little for the hungry bovines. It might just be me, but dairy farming seems to be a messy, smelly business. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe they're bucolic, peaceful buddhas in disguise. Hayden Carruth, a Vermont poet, thinks so:

The Cows at Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight, 
too heavy, and sank in the mist
 soon after dark, leaving for light 

faint stars and the silver leaves 
of milkweed beside the road, 
gleaming before my car.  

Yet I like driving at night 
in summer and in Vermont: 
the brown road through the mist  

of mountain-dark, among farms 
so quiet, and the roadside willows 
opening out where I saw  

the cows. Always a shock 
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.  

I stopped, and took my flashlight 
to the pasture fence. They turned 
to me where they lay, sad  

and beautiful faces in the dark, 
and I counted them–forty 
near and far in the pasture,  

turning to me, sad and beautiful 
like girls very long ago 
who were innocent, and sad  

because they were innocent,
 and beautiful because they were
 sad. I switched off my light.  

But I did not want to go, 
not yet, nor knew what to do 
if I should stay, for how  

in that great darkness could I explain
 anything, anything at all.
 I stood by the fence. And then  

very gently it began to rain.

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