Elaine’s Paddocks

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In Memory of Elaine Waters

If pressed in conversation
you would agree, amicably enough,
that life was like a muddy paddock in midwinter
with a group of unruly cattle to be mustered
shifting uneasily up at the top end.

You had the cow-wisdom to note
that the one with eye cancer would baulk the lot
going through the first gate
and there was no wit in standing
bemoaning the fact while they scattered
like red stars into their cold universe.

Moving stock with you was easy.
Buoyed by a four-dimensional grace
you sent them in through the laneway,
a trickle then a rush, rolled eyes staring
breathing and jostling
in the mist-heavy air.

Then you might mention in the lull
how the cycles roll up the year
a bit like a giant and benign underground slug
whose back pushed up the grass like green pins,
whose cavernous heaving knocked lambs out of ewes
like crystals of salt.

Watching you under the huge wooden bones of the shed
feeding a poddy calf with a beer bottle
with a teat large enough to be a joke
straight out of vaudeville,
I saw your intent as your small
but womanly hands stroked life, touched death
and honoured them both.

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