Mother and Calf

A Spring Calving Poem

Here is a recap of this month’s poems so far. As a reminder, they are all found poems based on the early 20th century diaries of my great aunt Hattie:

Today’s poem is based on Hattie’s April 1957 entries, from the last year of her diaries and the middle of a snowy spring calving season. Note for line 16 that “cast wethers” was once a common term for a prolapsed uterus.

April 1957: Frankie

Storm is forecast
Snow and wind
In east barn-lot
Calves play among cows
As if it was fun
Frankie and Clarence
Spend all their time
Pulling and fussing
One born outside
Just before dark
Clarence and boys
Got it in barn
Pulled one dead
Made men sick
But cow is alive
One had wethers out
Clarence and Frankie
Sewed back in
Twins born this night
Cow on the fight so
Left one calf with mother
Brought one to barn
Drinks milk from bottle
A cow with dead calf
Must have had twins as
Came back with a calf but
Bawls for dead one
Frankie gets meals
Hangs washing
Brings milk and chicken feed
Helps with calving
She needs a new pair
Of leather gloves.

Mother and child reunion
“Mother and child reunion,” by Rachel Kramer (CC BY 2.0)

April 10, 1957

5 thoughts on “A Spring Calving Poem

  1. Speechless. Possibly even more affecting for me because of growing up on a dairy farm and living through similar experience. Wow, these are so beautiful, Lisa. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Jessica! (Hattie thanks you, too.) Your found poems have been part of the puzzle of figuring out how to shape these diaries for a wider readership.

  2. I really like the small details here. They all help me sense the confusing rush of activity and emotion connected with this relatively self-contained snapshot. The stormy weather, the “cast wethers,” the missing dead calf, the leather gloves. Beautiful!

  3. Carol Ann and Katie, thank you! Hattie always was especially affected by mothers and their young, perhaps because she had the experience of giving up a baby for adoption well before her marriage. In any case, she always noted the details of events like calving, as you mention, Katie, that I think many others around her might have missed.

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