LAST GRAZE – Star Coulbrooke
They move the cattle out of Cottonwood
Thanksgiving weekend, rounding them up
on horse-back and four-wheelers,
channeling a bawling sea of matted red and black
onto one long dirt road packed with first snow.
Last graze of the season, droughted grass
bitten down to nubs, coneflower tops eaten off,
leaves crackling, stream bed a slog of green mud.
We gape at the choreographed hubbub of dogs,
men, and 1200-pound beasts milling and flowing,
waves of sound carrying over the air long after
they’ve passed, cows bellowing for their calves,
tearing at strands of roadside chaff as they walk,
brawny cattle spindle-legged and shitting wildly
on their way to what they have no way of knowing.
In spring, we’ll find the stream renewed,
snow-melt coursing down from every draw,
grasses beginning where blue bells have wilted.
They’ll bring the cattle in again by Easter,
or maybe Memorial Day, waiting for weather
favorable to grazing, and by summer
they’ll walk under maples, shaded from sun,
black flies tumbling thick through the air around them.