Loading the Summer Cattle
Poems by Walt McDonald
They are coming from the summer range,
wading deep lakes of mirage. The men on horses
are patient, Stetsons low over bandannas
worn to keep from choking. I lean on the gate,
smoking, humming some country and western tune
that keeps on whirling through my mind,
the same old words that make us human,
doomed to know we'll love and lose sweet darlin'
before it happens. August cattle are slow
at sundown, not even bawling. If they know
those trucks come from the slaughterhouse,
thirst muzzles them. They know bales of hay
were here all winter, and so they trudge
obediently out of the last mirage
over pasture of a hundred roundups.
Squinting, I take out the last
half-inch of cigarette and flip it,
climb down and swing the iron gates wide.
previously published in The Fiddlehead 159 (1989). 856