I remember a calf that snaffled for air and died
and a man who desperately cared and tried
and tried to revive it and was about to mouth
to mouth it when a hand gripped his shoulder

hard and my brother said: Enough, leave it,
it’s dead. But it was breathing a minute ago!
he said. The hand squeezed harder: Enough.
And they saw each others’ eyes and he left it
and we all walked away wiping our shoes.

It was a Belgian Blue, which won’t mean much
unless you know they are a breed to feed us,
bred for meat, double muscles on the rear
and huge all over and that calf was the biggest

I’ve ever seen, and he was only quarter Blue—
maybe if we’d the calving jack. Yet we had four
powerful men on our tug of birth team
and we tugged and tugged, our heels slipping
on cow shit, we tugged, the cow groaned,

we winced, she fell, we tugged and slipped
and fell, got up and tugged and tugged
and despaired winning ground seeing
the size of the thing jammed halfway

and we tugged and tugged and tugged till it
came free crashing to earth and died before us.
We scraped the excess shit off our jeans, washed
our hands and went back to work next door,
started our day a second time: building

the farmer’s new house.