We pass into the dark, ruminant quiet,
the timbered hush of bales and bedding straw,
our winter Matins. At the sight of us,
cows file in to find places along the ribs
of the long crib—like monks to choir stalls—
but shoving, bawling fervent, hungry hosannas,
a cacophony of low-church cow Latin.
But once the fingers slip under taught string
to heave and break the waiting bales before them,
heads bow to their daily communion, solemnity
of mastication and shuffling hoof, the prayer-like
visible breath of a packed congregation,
the warmth of tightly-quartered body mass.
Offering, devotion, ground of being—
it is all there, unadorned, but adored by me
far from the costumed, mannered way of houses.
In the farm’s ancient covenant of nurture
and slaughter, viscera and excrement,
I feel nearer to a god’s amoral love.
While the house makes constant war against the critters,
the barn makes little effort to exclude.
It can be penetrated by all sizes,
the wanted and the unwanted cohabiting—
cows, mice, barn cats, pigeons, swallows, snakes, skunks—
a birth-of-Jesus kind of place for the homeless.
The early light pours in from doors and windows,
makes mote-filled ghostly gangways of living light.
Gaps in the shrunken siding slice bright lines
across the hay. They move like a sundial would,
yet set apart from ordinary time.
An indicative mood, factual, occupied
with a ritual of living, references
nothing more lofty here, yet, nonetheless,
something soft, dumb, and liquid in my core
becomes resonant to it, like a trough of water
that trembles at the approaching clop of hoof-fall.