The Herd
by Jerome Betts

Down over the hoof-worn trackway’s folds and rolls
Plod forty heavy-bagged dairy cows,
Teetering and slithering, fly swarmed and fussed,
Their backs’ knobbed ridges carrying-poles
For the bellies hung like bulging red-baize sacks,
Joggling digital udders and plaques
Of khaki muck.

                                                     Following the spurts of dust
And stones, the horns’ click, the smooth caked pink,
The stockman walks, trailing a stick, in a drowse
Of flickering ears and tails, sun-blink,
The desultory plop and scuffling of feet
And grass aftermaths from spongy mouths.

Consuming monsters kept pampered to secrete,
Milk-machines that run on earth’s green oil,
As swimming-pools in suburban gardens shock
The desert-dweller, they mock crazed soil
In bone-white plains where the nap rubs down to rock
Whose skeleton beasts no rains arouse.