Summer 1988 • Vol. X No. 3 Poetry |

Living on Hardscrabble

Cattle caught on open plains freeze every year. If blizzards give warning, we round up steers and herd them home until the snows blow over. They roam on winter wheat that keeps them sleek for spring. One winter, Canada roared down. Sledgehammers couldn't break ice cloudy in the troughs. For days we rode for cattle frozen where they fell, some huddled by barbed wire, stumbling in snowdrifts, sheeted with ice like armor. Sundown, herding survivors home, we passed a playa lake frozen hard, one whitefaced bull caught in the center. The bull had tried walking on water and broken through, up to his horns, his tail raised stiff like a flag, his head on a platter of ice, wide muzzle stiff, as if he had frozenbawling. That night, we fed the lucky steers and barred the corral to save them. At supper, we smoked in the bunkhouse and played poker, and argued how long a bull could have bawled when the lake gave way. We flipped our cards and drank and cursed our luck, and tried to

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.

Read More

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.