Hardcore Pastorals: Poems by Rebecca Hawkes

By | 31 October 2021

Sparkling bucolic

it’s not real cottagecore unless you’re up to the elbow in it
blindly groping down the blood-slick canal
as another contraction ripples around your knuckles
the cow is lain on her side kicking a mud angel

your hand clutching at the calf’s limp hoof
head torch slipping over your brow
as you affix the chain and brace yourself
to pull and pull until an amniotic spill

when the calf’s head breaches unbreathing
still you pull and bring the whole body wetly
into the cold world you drag the whole darkness
drenched newborn around so the mother can lick

caked salts and membranes from her motionless baby
as you rub her tired sides and say sorry girl I’m
sorry you’re alright you’re alright but somehow
the calf’s ribcage has started flaring a pitiful bellows

for breath so you kneel again in the sodden grass
to feed a stalk of hay up one nostril until it sneezes
and smack its sides to keep the mucus moving
then leave them to it snuffling to learn each other

wipe the afterbirth on your thrifted silk slip
your garden strange in torchlight the red flax bowing
like a cow to her newborn the wisteria blossoms heavy as udders
loneliness collapsing on you like a waterlogged tent

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