Monday, January 5, 2009

Walk at Twilight:

At twilight I took Alf out for a walk
following Bobby's tracks
across my late uncle's farm, and recalling
on the way, because we passed the old
cemetery of the Vaughts, how he'd asked me
when I was a kid, headed to the branch for
my first campout overnight, wasn't I
afraid of haints.
He's one now, if he's anything.

Rain has swelled Dry Branch
to a rush. Alf had to swim, I jumped.
We walked up to Bobby, standing still
on the hillside, watching his cows.
I stopped and stayed quiet, in a little while
he asked his greeting question - "What
do you think about it now?"
I think it's good was my reply.
A little more silence and he began to talk:

"There's another new calf over there, see her?
I found her in the branch, the cow'd had her
then she fell in. I got her out, still covered with
blood and afterbirth, carried her over there
on the hill to her mommy and she went to licking it off.
She didn't mind me at all. I raised her - I know what she is, and
she knows what I am."

The great curves of the hills stay peaceful and still
under the cropping of the cows, the grey mist is pulled,
imperceptibly by the branch, Bobby's voice is low, caressing the cows
who gather round him, or graze, some chewing their cuds, the little calf
I saw the other day can scamper now.

"This is good for them, they get used to you being around,
and then when you need to do something for them you can.
I know them - I've got cattle in my blood."

"I can watch them all day and all night, it don't bother me at all."

I stand around too, in the spell of his recounting -
the lives of individual cows, the color of each calf they've had, whether
they are nosey or shy, the story has no end -
the cattle, with their shaggy winter coats, seem ice-aged.
The chilly air bears down as we watch
the new calf get her legs, stand up and find the teat.
"Now she'll get some warm milk in her and warm her body up."
Soft, nearly whispered, the Keeper of the Herd observes
that all is well. I tell him that I've got to head back
to the house.

I walk a fallen limb over and Alf reswims
the branch, across the dimming field a hoot owl
from the dark woods. The Vaughts are buried at
the edge, and the soft-edged pulses of the sound
draw me to the graveyard fence. Many of the stones
are toppled, some fieldstones, ungraven, just stood up,
the lives they mark are somehow related
to my own
by the sodden ground, the farmer's spell,
and the sermon of the owl.


Cathy said...

Pretty damn near perfect.

Dan Dutton said...


I'm exhilarated, but a little alarmed too - at how the internal spaces in YACB are expanding - I'm still in the first decade of nearly 10 - but I like the way it's going and some of the things I worried would be impossible to work with, due to scarcity of fact and artifact, are actually fairly easy. The paradox (& there's always got to be at least one...) is that the trickiest character in this is the most contemporary one, my imagination.

Alan Evil said...

Grandpa used to just stand there and watch the cows eat. He knew how every last animal was doing all the time.

Dan Dutton said...

Bobby's the closest to him I ever met in that regard.

SBD said...

Might I return the favor, these writings are exquisite. The convey the past, present and hope in each line. I am mesmerized.

Apifera Farm said...

You're on fire man...I'm just catching up...this post made me happy, and me glad too for my life here, as I know what it's like to be Bobby in some small sense. I know my sheep, and the sounds of my animals at night eating, chewing cud in the these words
"the lives they mark are somehow related
to my own
by the sodden ground, the farmer's spell,
and the sermon of the owl." made my hair stand up on my neck.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I love making hair stand up! You opened my eyes at apifera that the combination of farming and art isn't just a Dutton quirk, but a natural way to live.

Cathy said...

Certainly a natural for talent of Dutton and Dunn magnitude!

Apifera Farm said...

Dutton & Dunn...isn't there a country duet called that...Dan, I'm blocked, I mean REALLY blocked today...I have produced S...T all day. I have now done the only thing I can do after 6 hours of drivel - I have put on Neil, really loud...

Cathy said...

My internal soundtrack all day was 'Tell Me Why.'

Apifera Farm said...

wow..i love that song, it's one of my favorites, even though the meaning changes for me, and sometimes remains blurry. I'm on my second listening of the 2 disc Decade...played a little air guitar too. I have to do that alone, with the dogs, but no husband. One can NOT play air guitar to Neil and have theiir husband walk in. it's like having your mom walk in on you when you are 12 and...well, you know by what I speak....

Dan Dutton said...

Ha! That's funny about being 12 - I've been trying to switch my track back to Pete - thinking about being an adolescent slave is boggling.

K. you'll be back in the saddle again in no time ~ I remember how you balmed me along thru my blank period ~ so I'm saying you're just building up a charge in your genius battery.

Apifera Farm said...

Oddly, after producing crap all day, I sat down about 5pm, and put on Neil, as I said. I tried again to start something, of, I don't know...something...but what immediately formed was a line image, and the face was completed immediately - it was obvious who it was, and it needed to be painted, for me. It was the sweetest internal moment, I had tears in my eyes. Neil is such a good guide for me. I put it on the blog today [ladies, gentlemen, excuse the used car sales man pitch to my blog]...
will see what else comes out this week...