An old brown dog of no particular breed
Lay in the shade with his tongue hanging out.
In a sprawl of poplar behind the barn
A cat’s ears flattened, scolded by swallows.
Late July, and the western capes crumbled
In the sun under bay bushes and pale grass.
Cowflop dried along the deep narrow paths
The Holsteins scribbled across the pasture.
An old Ford tractor stood (gray as my hair
Is now) on the beach beside the blue strait.
Into the trailer behind, Robert Smith
Shoveled sand and pebbles for cement mix.
The foundation of everything is this:
You do the next thing that needs to be done.
Green sleeves rolled to the elbows, the shovel
A metronome true as the moon and tide.
The same rhythm Charlie Smith taught him
On the milking stool; one-two one-two one-two.
Morning and evening, out in the pasture,
He called high, “Here sook! sook-sook-sook! sook-sook!”
Until the cattle came, reluctant, lowing,
The brown dog at their hooves, each to its stall.
The cat came at the sound of streams of milk
Ringing against the steel sides of the pail.
In the new milkshed, the separator
Clanged and rattled as it filled the tall cans.
And then–always–manure was the next thing,
The pitchfork’s tines scraping against concrete.