In the muddy pasture at the end of the lane

black cows graze.

Tufts of fur brushstroke their backs

mud-manure cakes their sides

fresh-wet slurry down sturdy shanks

their modest beef-cow udders

lurking turgid in the dark between.

Their occupation of ripping

grass and vetch with a tearing crunch

of looking up to chew    to gaze    to drop

manure in flat splatter-piles

barely interrupted by my approach—

the nearest of the dozens raise their heads

and turn their massive necks

shifting cracked mud-scales

to level onyx eyes assessing me

still and steady a steamy breath

before without the faintest trace of thought

they swing their shining snouts back down to earth.