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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 2, June 2017
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Glenn Coats
Prospect, Virginia, USA


The Saving of Prayers

Cold penetrates wide floorboards, pine creaks when I cross a room. No heat in the pantry or out on the porch. Plastic rectangles that I nailed over the windows beat in and out like hearts. My wife rolls up towels, places them under doorways, wherever she feels a draft.

Tonight, the water troughs are frozen solid. I stab at them with a screwdriver and try to make holes wide enough for a cow’s muzzle. My wife boils pots of water that I carry up to the fields and pour over the ice. “Cows will weaken if they have to eat snow,” she says.

Tomorrow, I will push troughs together and move the cows into one pasture. Heat from an island of them might keep the water from freezing. “Time to call it quits,” I hear my wife call. When I look back at the porch light—no one is there.

winter wind
pines shake off
the dead

When I return from the store, my wife is waiting in the drive. “Hurry,” she says as I step out of the car, “One of the girls is in trouble.”

Snow crunches like stale bread as we move closer to the cow. She is lying alone in the pasture. “Poor girl has been getting up and down for an hour,” my wife says. “She’s not getting up any more.”

We can see the hooves. I steady her head; tell her what a fine gal she is as my wife pulls the legs. The calf won’t budge. Each of us takes a leg and we pull until the newborn flops on the snow.

My wife uses her finger to clean the calf’s nose and she starts to breathe. We carry her back to the barn, spread fresh straw, and watch as the mother cleans the newborn off. Outside the sound of cows as the herd moves closer to the barn.

winter’s silence
movement of shadows
under the ice

It is still dark when I wake my wife; tell her I lost the truck keys in the snow. “They just flew out of my fingers,” I say.

We follow my tracks to the spot where the keys are hidden, shine flashlights and sift through the fresh powder. Nothing. “It’ll be spring before we find them,” my wife says. “Cows are hungry.”

The owner of the farm is in Florida. His new tractor, the one he purchased for parades is in the barn. “You’re not,” my wife says. I slide the big doors open to let in the beginnings of daylight.

I sit on the seat, press the clutch down to the floorboard, push the key in and click it. The engine turns over.

The tractor is aiming out of the door. I ease back the clutch and begin to move forward. There is a steady put-put-put as I follow the lane up to the feeding station. Snowflakes brush my face. Nothing will melt today.

train in the snow
the dull tones
of worn strings

Cows huddle at their feeding stations, black, like clouds against the snowy pasture. I start the work truck, rumble to the barn, toss down twelve bales and load the bed, then stop at each lean-to and break up bales. Steam rises from nostrils and backs as the cows wade in toward the hay.

I turn off the truck as an owl soars from the remnants of a water wheel. Wings flash then vanish. All the house lights are on and the scent of wood smoke hovers close to the ground.

cold fingertips
the gray of winter
in her folded cuffs

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