The Cows at Night
The moon was like a full cup tonight, too heavy, and sank in the mist soon after dark, leaving for light faint stars and the silver leaves of milkweed beside the road, gleaming before my car. Yet I like driving at night in summer and in Vermont: the brown road through the mist of mountain-dark, among farms so quiet, and the roadside willows opening out where I saw the cows. Always a shock to remember them there, those great breathings close in the dark. I stopped, and took my flashlight to the pasture fence. They turned to me where they lay, sad and beautiful faces in the dark, and I counted them–forty near and far in the pasture, turning to me, sad and beautiful like girls very long ago who were innocent, and sad because they were innocent, and beautiful because they were sad. I switched off my light. But I did not want to go, not yet, nor knew what to do if I should stay, for how in that great darkness could I explain anything, anything at all. I stood by the fence. And then very gently it began to rain.
Hayden Carruth's "The Cows at Night," from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems (2006) is used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Hayden Carruth was born on August 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and
Date Published: 2006-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/cows-night