As a child, I dreamed of living with animals: goats, chickens, cattle. My father grew up on a dairy farm, so maybe I had it in my blood somehow, though I have never lived on a farm. In my dream farm, all the animals were safe, respected and cared for throughout their natural lives. The harsh brutality of the farming life alarmed me each time I encountered it. Once, I tried to rescue a baby goat who was going to be slaughtered for meat, but my parents wouldn't let me keep him (we lived in town). My dad told me he would grow up to be a big, stinky, rough-horned billy-goat. I cried and cried! And there were others: rabbits, geese, chickens. What an array of rescues I would have had, if I'd been allowed! Maybe that's why I have so many animals living in my home now, though they are all ones that are permitted within city limits (still no goats, sadly).
I saw this image on Every Photo Tells a Story, an image-prompt blog for poets. It brought back some of these memories for me, and it also inspired this poem. This topic also reminded me of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, which truly seems to be my kind of farm. Peaceful Prairie also has a blog, here; the writing is absolutely gorgeous and heart-moving.
Chocolate eyes tracked her movement
as she hauled wood, then sloshed water
an icy torrent torn from the stream
swollen now with runoff
tin buckets tipped, one by one
into the enormous white-legged troughs
in which girls like her once soaked
their skin to ruddy and scrubbed
with lye soap and sage.
The soft-eared ones trailed along behind,
steady, pausing from time to time
to nibble on a dandelion or tuft of fresh grass.
Their mouths turned, circular
as those great flat teeth worked
the tender spring greens to pulp
readily as the paired stone discs
crush grain to powder in the flourmill.
They were family, she and the hooved ones:
all girls, safe here, the one place in the world
where they were all just people.
So she dropped her buckets in the grass
and sat on a sunny hillock to drink
in the morning, watching the sluggish bees
bumble their low drone
among the first blossoms, the soft breath
of her snuffling companions tumbling
into the quick-nibbled shoots around her.
March 16, 2009