Across the service road, block-faced tractors carve fields
into narrow ridged lanes. Dust trails rise from the furrows,
curling above paddocks licked gold with windswept grass.
The vet takes off his shirt, browns his arms to the elbows;
standing back – he studies the cow’s prolapsed womb,
palms level with his chest in some sort of medical prayer.
After a moment’s thought, the sun beating hard on his back,
he leans in to cradle the womb with a mastered stoicism.
Gently he purges the muscle of grass and earth, rust-red water
flowing down her hocks, her head locked in the steel spasm
of the crush, eyes lost in the rolling shine of paddocks.
Pale signatures of dust scrawl the sky, the whispered strokes
vanishing into a blue canvas. In the pen, her day-old calf
springs about on giddy legs, the black calf shiny as split coal.
A whirlwind rises, stirring up dust and flamboyant petals.
Again, the gentle bath; but first a warm slap, a fresh bowl
and murmurs of song; his battered box open, needles, blades
and bottles spinning hypnotic webs of light over his elbow.
He shaves the base of the cow’s tail. Slides the needle in.
He lifts the bright muscle, but pain dismantles her stance,
so he waits – blowflies glittering in the heat like emeralds,
her braced dance, swaying, gradually returning her balance.
Then, with an assured commitment, he guides the uterus in.
Everything beneath the sun gives stage to loud sequential farting,
a sherry rush of liquid courses down the vet’s arm, into his
armpit, down his flank, to his work-trousers – the pale fluid
forming faint maps. Purposeful and red, a steady rain of petals
falls. The polished hum of bees bright beside the grading shed.
And as delicate as light salted by the sun, wafts of medicine
and dust ride the air with a perfume the whole scene needs.