I do not doubt that he loved the long-backed cows
more than me, and many mornings he bounded
more lithe than a calf at the chance
to be out in the barn, head pressed to flank,
as he hummed whatever tune the milk pail found.
And those days that the snow piled so deep
we had to tractor through the fields with hay
he seemed so pleased to share his girls with me
as though each was a favored child.
Nights calving, he paced farther than with any of our
own, and he could be found curled around the calf, a cow’s long
tongue washing one, and then the other, as though birthing
this man was nothing strange.
I have felt at times, the second wife, but tonight
as the sun falls, bats whir and lights appear
across the valley, he plays saxophone on the hill.
His loves lumber up from the barn, each with her own
particular sway. I move to join their parade.
—from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy & Western Poetry
M.E. Hope: “Growing up in rural Eastern Oregon I had little direction to go but toward writing; there were only so many stories the sheep, horses and cows could bear. Poetry made small lies supportable and was a safe place to hide observations that otherwise may have wronged people. Nonetheless, I stuck with it.”