The Herd

The steam rose in silent clouds from the large backs of the animals as they ate. Maybe twenty or so in the herd were packed in the courtyard for the early feed as the light rose gently behind the far trees and seeped silk into the inked sky by the milking parlour. Only the small shuffles of hooves in the hay and their heavy exhales lifted out over the air. The calves remained in the straw-warmed barn, blinking a slow morning prayer. Apricot down licked up in tufts by the rough tongues of their mothers. I stood still as a reed, casting a shadow through the doorway longer than the walk there. I watched their stomachs rise and fall in steady peace. I know what I have to do.
Louise Cato