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In the muddy pasture at the end of the lane
black cows graze.
Tufts of fur brush-stroke their backs
mud-manure cakes their sides
dark-wet slurry down sturdy shanks
their modest beef-cow udders
lurking turgid in the dark between,
their occupation ripping
grass and vetch with a tearing crunch,
of looking up to chew, to gaze, to drop
manure in flat splatter-piles
barely interrupted by my approach—
the nearest of the dozens raise their heads
and turn their massive necks
shifting cracked mud-scales
to level onyx eyes assessing me
still and steady a steamy breath
before, without the faintest trace of thought,
they swing their shining snouts back down to earth.

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Michael Bickford

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