The usual English summer:
early heat stoking speedwell,
dog’s mercury stealing
a march, then months
of drizzle until rosehips
were fading coals
in the hedgerows,
sloes a hidden bruise,
slugs cruising a lacework
of green and bodies coming
home under Union Jacks
– salutes, tributes, the Last Post.

Then on the fading cusp
of August, cows calling
nightlong into rain that
pelted the village:
knock-kneed, teats dragging
in mud, their lungs’ bellows
working the drenched ember
of summer, as if Hera’s spite
stranded them beyond
phonetical love; their eyes
goaded by flies, their tongues
turning a hoarse cud of longing.

Even in darkness
we question their sad
calling with the glib surety
of words, shaping these
smallest sounds as if glass
had broken in our mouths
to join up again as meaning,
measure the loss in their
inhuman mooning yet
still fall short of ours.

Engorged, drooling,
teat-sore, they drag their
banishment through wet
fields, call for their stolen
calves in pain so large,
so inexpressible so deep
it erupts from the colossal
absence they circle as if
they have known in one
form, one incarnation, one
language of consonant
delight a delicacy they
could never speak in this
brute sphere, nor ever be
transfigured to themselves.

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