The Calf

Child of a dying wind it lay
In the muck and hot, blond grass
Below the dam and its strangled creek
That my boyhood friend and I
Crossed that morning, determined
To flee the nun’s black habits and ink,
To claim all property, posted or not.

And I remember thinking the eyes,
Pulled by crows and gone, might have
Envisioned a wilderness complete.
I knew dogs could dream; why not cattle?

painting by Sally Egbert
Pine trees, mixed media on canvas, 30” x 22” , 2015, Sally Egbert

The flies under its tail, too furious
To be waved away, seemed to be trying
To tunnel up under the tail where coyotes
Had, most likely the night before, though
Not far enough because the creature lived.

Pete, who carried on his back the welts
Of his father’s belt, had a near perfect ear
For silence, and so my best friend, this time
Threw back his head and made some kind
Of unholy screech, voicing the quarrel
The animal could no longer make.

My own throat bubbled with vomit
As if from that sink hole
When I plunged, then walked
The dull blade of his pocket knife
Up the corded artery of the neck.

We sat there half a lost afternoon,
Quiet, not understanding, yet,
How we’d chosen to love
What God would not.

–“The Calf,” by D. James Smith, from Sensitive Skin #13

Sensitive Skin 13 available here in PDF format here for just $4.95, or get the full-color print version via Amazon and select bookstores.