The Barn

The Barn

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.