Patricia Gray, author of Rupture: Poems, previously directed the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center. Her poems have appeared most recently in The Louisville Review, The Tower Journal online, Ekphrasis, and District Lines Anthology. She has been a panelist at the Associated Writing Programs national conference and a judge for the national Poetry Out Loud competition for high school students sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry. She is a recipient of an Artist Fellowships in Poetry from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, honorable mention in the Ann Stanford National Poetry competition, and was a semi-finalist for the New Millennium Poetry Prize. Gray attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference in 2004, where she studied with Evan Boland. Her MFA in creative writing is from the University of Virginia, where she won the Academy of American Poets Prize.
I don’t know what it was about this poem that touched me so deeply, I only know when I read it I cried as I did when I read John Updike’s Dog’s Death. There was just something primal about it that wouldn’t let go of me.
* * * * *
Calf Born in Snow
I can still hear the loud moan
in my grandfather’s kitchen,
where the wood stove was open
for the failing fire’s warmth, and
on the oven door, wrapped
in an old quilt, lay the new Charolais calf-
a twin that survived its snowy birth
that morning, though its brother died-
both of them the color of muddy snow,
this one too weak to stand.
We tried to feed him his mother’s milk,
but he seemed to forget he was eating
and slept, so that by ten that night, when
he raised his head suddenly, making
a loud maa-a-a-a sound, I could scarcely
believe it. “He’s getting better!”
Dad put his hand on my shoulder.
“Quiet. He’s dying,” was all he said-
old knowledge, deep as the Blue Mountains.
Still, I’d witnessed that final, wonderful
rallying, as if every ounce of life pulled
together to raise the calf’s head,
to leave his sound so indelibly there.