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The Calf

by Christopher Woods

Dawn, horizon red in the East,
Clouds created a low ceiling
For the speckled crimson sky.
I walked my retriever
On his constitutional.

Across a neighbor's fence,
I watched the cows,
A procession of sorts,
Coming up from the grove.
One by one they marched.
Coming up the rear was a brown cow,
And, trying to keep pace with her,
A baby calf born in the night.

My wife and I had come to the country
For the weekend, to await pathology results.
She had breast cancer surgery a few days before.
Our lives were in a kind of upheaval,
Not knowing what might happen next.
For the first time, I had thought about fragility
In a new way, how things might end.
I had no idea what the news might be.

Then, seeing this calf, still wet
And struggling on its floundering legs
To keep up with its mother,
I was struck by the cycle of all of us.
For a brief moment, the calf looked at me.
I knew I was the first human
The calf had ever seen.
He studied me for a moment,
Showed a primal kind of recognition,
Then looked away, back to its mother.
And I looked away, into the distance,
Unsure where and how it might be.

Christopher Woods is the author of a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY. He is also a playwright. He lives with his wife Linda in Houston and in Chappell Hill, Texas.