In early spring the melting snowpack floods
the lowland farms, leaving higher spots
where stolid cattle crowd and chew their cuds
impassively in ever-tighter knots.
At gnarled uprooted trees and sawmill logs
and bloated livestock from upstream somewhere,
distorted forms that could be calves or dogs,
the cattle stare their unreflective stare.
From time to time the chaos coursing past
gives up a creature to the makeshift ark,
a muddy skunk, raccoon, or possum cast
by chance above the wavering watermark.
They pace as far apart as space allows,
constrained to keep their brief, uneasy peace
with wary arabesques among the cows
and watch their ill-assorted tribe increase.
The beasts of farm and field, forced to share,
are unified by what divides around
their rain-soaked realm, dimly still aware
as bit by bit they lose their common ground.
Richard Wakefield has published two collections of poetry: East of Early Winters (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and A Vertical Mile (shortlisted for the Poet’s Prize). His sonnet “Plutarch” received the Howard Nemerov Award. He teaches Humanities at Tacoma Community College and for 29 years was a reviewer of fiction, poetry, and biography for The Seattle Times.