A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Milking Before Dawn

In the drifting rain the cows in the yard are as black

And wet and shiny as rocks in an ebbing tide;

But they smell of the soil, as leaves lying under trees

Smell of the soil, damp and steaming, warm.

The shed is an island of light and warmth, the night

Was water-cold and starless out in the paddock.


Crouched on the stool, hearing only the beat

The monotonous heat and hiss of the smooth machines,

The choking gasp of the cups and rattle of hooves,

How easy to fall asleep again, to think

Of the man in the city asleep; he does not feel

The night encircle him, the grasp of mud.


But now the hills in the east return, are soft

And grey with mist, the night recedes, and the rain.

The earth as it turns towards the sun is young.

Again, renewed, its history wiped away

Like the tears of a child. Can the earth be young again

And not the heart? Let the man in the city sleep.


Ruth Dallas (1919 -- 2008)

Poem reprinted with the permission of Otago University Press
and of Joan Dutton, Literary Executor to Ruth Dallas


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