Whimsical Pastoral Poetry: Ode to the Milk Cow

Fourteen-year-old author's poem and homage to Edgar Allan Poe.
By Beth Simer
March/April 1982
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A 14-year-old's take on the trials and errors of milking a cow.  

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When we received this 14-year-old reader's submission, we just knew that we had to publish it. Here is Beth Simer's homage to cows — and Edgar Allen Poe. 

Once upon an evening balmy, with a book that did enthrall me, Lo! I heard my mother call me, call me from the lower stair. And with soft impatient moaning, then I laid my book down, groaning. And, since there was no postponing, ran to see what waited there.

Said my mother (small, but sturdy), "See, the clock now says 6:30. Go put on your barn clothes dirty, and your boots so big and strong, for the cows are nicely waiting, and their cuds they're masticating, and their milk's accumulating in the udders, all along."

Thought I, "Mother, so deluded, from this happy task excluded, your ideas may be disputed by the ones that truly know. True, the task may be quite pleasing, warm milk from the udder squeezing, listening to the rhythmic wheezing, and the chewing soft and low.

"True, some cows may come politely, with their long tails moving lightly. Coming calmly, daily, nightly, steps so dignified, so sure. But the other has to vent her anger on the one who's pent her... If she does decide to enter, coverall things with manure."

From the green and tender pasture, she runs fast and then runs faster, fleeing from her irate master, jumping fences, dodging trees, plunging deep in mud and water to escape from those who sought her, and when you have finally caught her, thick with mud up to her knees.

Finally to the barn you lead her, and you truly want to beat her, but to quiet down you need her, so the milk will gently flow. So you pat her and you stroke her (though you greatly want to choke her) and to peaceful calm provoke her, speaking quiet, speaking slow.

All to failure come your ruses. She to settle down refuses and inflicts upon you bruises with her hard and filthy hoof... With her tail so wet and muddy, sharply swats at everybody till your stinging face is ruddy and you want to hit the roof...

Wildly panting, wildly glaring, from her hot eyes madly staring till it takes an act of daring to draw close and wash her off. With warm water then you flood her, gently cleanse the miry udder, hose the dirt into the gutter, dry her with a downy cloth.

All at last is calm and quiet. She licks up her grainy diet, so you settle down to try it with the milk pail 'twixt her knees, milking quickly, leftly, rightly. She is standing quite politely with her long tail moving lightly, quite as calmly as you please.

And the milk comes smoothly, surely. She is standing quite demurely, with her tail so long and curly swatting gently at the flies. Suddenly you feel a shudder . . . hoof moves swiftly past the udder, tips the pail into the gutter, leaves you blinking in surprise.

Then with rage your heart is seething and your lungs have trouble breathing, but her sides are calmly heaving, calmly swishing is her tail. Try to milk with hands aflutter, but you squeeze an empty udder, for the milk is in the gutter, so you set aside the pail.

So you step up then to loose her, to departure to induce her, but disdaining thoughts of truce, her foot is planted on your toe. Frantically you pound her, screaming . . . quite unmoved she rests there, dreaming. Finally, pain enough it deeming, placidly she turns to go.  

Trudging home in evening's hour, longing vainly for a shower, feeling tired, sore, and sour from the fracas you've been in, though you know you should not borrow trouble from the unknown morrow, yet you know, with certain sorrow, you must do it all again.  

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