About cows

They shit a lot and at first it is a warm pat
ridged with raised circles as it dries.
Water stopped in its tracks or a viscous jelly
hardening from the outside in.
I think of dying in a pool of shite,
the one my mother meant –
Go take a running leap in the slurry pit for all I care.
We had lost three cats that summer.
Seeing them stiffed, legs rigid and shining
made an art of death.
But this was to be about cows,
their lumbering walk to the gap to be milked
as if they know more together than apart.
They can smell a stream of fresh water from a mile.
They can hear grass growing under the bull.
They hold time in their four stomachs, chewing it down
till the evening milking, feeling the hours move on through.
They do not miss the calves they have had taken.
No attachment is apparent in three days.
Perhaps like the farmer in a unit of money,
they count on exchange.
Cows know their own patch but they’ll stray to graze another’s.
Swung towards the hedge in rain, heads dripping,
tail swatch taking a rest from flies.
Apparently rural but worldly wise, cows know that loss
is our only measure, expellation a passing pleasure.

by Siobhán Campbell

News from the Centre: this Thursday we are delighted to welcome this week’s poet, Siobhán Campbell, to Oxford to read with Kate Clanchy as part of the Poetry Centre’s reading series. Everyone is very welcome to hear two internationally-acclaimed writers. The reading takes place at the Society Café, St. Michael’s Street, Oxford, from 7-9pm. Tickets (£4) can be bought on the door or via the Brookes Shop.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Oxford Writers’ House presents ‘Writing for Audio Drama and Podcasting: an Evening with Robert Valentine and Liz Campbell’. All are welcome, but places are limited! Find out more and sign up here

On Saturday 11 November, don’t miss an Armistice Day reading with Adnan Al-Sayegh, Jenny Lewis, Peter King & Jude Cowan Montague, together with the launch of Seeds of Bullets, a book on Adnan’s work. Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford, 7.30pm.

Finally, the Woodstock Poetry Festival runs from 10-12 November. A very impressive programme includes readings by the likes of Douglas Dunn and Anne Stevenson. More details here.

‘About cows’ is copyright © Siobhán Campbell, 2017, and reprinted from Heat Signature by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Siobhán Campbell was born in Ireland and has lived in Dublin and London as well as San Francisco and Washington DC. Widely published in the USA and UK, she has won awards in the National Poetry Competition, the Troubadour International Poetry Competition, the Templar Poetry Prize and most recently was awarded the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize (Open category). She has an MA from the University College Dublin, a PhD from Lancaster University and has pursued postgraduate study at NYU and the New School in New York. She joined the Open University Department of English from Kingston University London where she was Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and Director of the MFA in Creative Writing. Heat Signature is her fifth collection of poems, and you can read more about the book on the Seren website. Find out more about Siobhán’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website and follow Seren on Twitter and on Facebook

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