Birth of Rainbow


This morning blue vast clarity of March sky
But a blustery violence of air, and a soaked overnight
Newpainted look to the world. The wind coming
Off the snowed moor in the South, razorish,
Heavy-bladed and head-cutting, off snow-powdered ridges.
Flooded ruts shook. Hoof-puddles flashed. A daisy
Mud-plastered unmixed its head from the mud.
The black and white cow, on the highest crest of the round ridge,
Stood under the end of a rainbow.
Head down licking something, full in the painful wind
That the pouring haze of the rainbow ignored.
She was licking her gawky black calf
Collapsed wet-fresh from the womb, blinking his eyes
In the low morning dazzling washed sun.
Black, wet as a collie form a river, as she licked him,
Finding his smells, learning his particularity.
A flag of bloody tissues hung from her back end
Spreading and shining, pink-fleshed and raw, it flapped and coiled
In the unsparing wind. She positioned herself, uneasy
As we approached, nervous small footwork
On the hoof-ploughed drowned sod of the ruined field.
She made uneasy low noises, and her calf too
With its staring whites, mooed the full clear calf-note
Pure as woodwind, and tried to get up,
Tried to get its cantilever front legs
In operation, lifted its shoulders, hoisted to its knees,
Then hoisted its back end and lurched forward
On its knees and crumpling ankles, sliding in the mud
And collapsing plastered. She went on licking it.
She started eating the banner of thin raw flesh that
Spinnakered from her rear. We left her to it.
Blobbed antiseptic onto the sodden blood-dangle
Of his muddy birth-cord, and left her
Inspecting the new smell. The whole South West
Was black as nightfall.
Trailing squalls-smokes hung over the moor leaning
And whitening towards us, then the world blurred
And disappeared in forty-five-degree hail
And a gate-jerking blast. We got to cover.
Left to God the calf and its mother.


Ted Hughes, Collected Poems, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005.