First Calf

Hymn to a patient, lowly beast that accepts her lot unquestioningly unlike the poet who, we sense, is ‘wintering out’, biding his time, growing impatient for change. Heaney has returned to a lost domain after prolonged absence (It’s a long time since …) Early life alongside a father who dealt in and owned cattle has provided Heaney with first-hand knowledge: he can tell instinctively that this is the cow’s First Calf. The placenta that traditional farming practices did not waste (The afterbirth strung on the hedge) evokes the pain of delivery and the goriness of the birth: As if the wind smarted/And streamed bloodshot tears. Indifferent to precise location, the mother stands calmly Somewhere about, her disproportionate frame instantly recognizable […]