The James Hearst Digital Archive

Home » Poetry » The New Calf

The New Calf

Text of Poem

In the basement by the furnace lies
a newborn calf I found, chilled and wet,
in the barn this morning, its mother
a wild-eyed young heifer frantic in
the pain of her first birth didn’t
lick it off to dry its hair and kicked
it in the gutter when it tried to suck.
I picked it up, rubbed it down and
fed it from a bottle. Here it lies
in a basket lined with straw while
I watch its heart tremble, flanks quiver,
muzzle twitch, eyes flicker. It sucked
so feebly on my finger I had to spoon
the milk (mixed with a little brandy)
in its mouth and stroke its throat
to make it swallow. Now it waits for life
to decide whether to go or stay—and
I think of deserted innocence everywhere,
a child locked out of the house,
a woman dirtied in love,
a father betrayed by his son, all of us
sometime abandoned, lonely, denied.

First Line
In the basement by the furnace lies
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
A Single Focus. Iowa City: Prairie Press. 1967. 70.
Complete Poems
Hearst Collections
Word Count
Poetic Form