Semen Testing the Herd Bulls
Everything that matters in life flows through tubes.
We get an early start.
Each, driven from seclusion,
congenial as flood-staged rivers
they set in motion on lumbering trajectories
to the gate. We push them in trios and quartets—
bellowing down the lane, a rider betwixt
to stage them strategically in the pens. Once
arrived, the usual upstart gets thrown through a fence.
And they fill the hopper one by one, brought up
the runway, a bull at a time for the test, as others
wait like the elderly on their scripts at the chemist.
Some barely fit the squeeze, poled behind, palpated
before insertion of the probe, then three moments,
three rocking pulses, a crystalline slide of half-lives
in the lens—I see a whole semi-load of calves!
is the shout. Boss says, Worm him and turn him out.
Was it they mostly finished their work, the way
the bulls came along this morning, let themselves
be driven back to the old pasture still ruined
with their holes, and nine-months frustration?
It finishes for some the way it began—to chase
a dam in heat through one gate and out another—
but not today in this feral wind of March demise.
And now we see them making places as we add
the last of the heifer bulls, still out of scale with
their mentors even before hard winter’s pursuit.
There will be posturing, momentary jousts but they
seem to know it’s over; the heat of day soon to replace
this half-feigned détente and settle them into a morbid
peace cast upon everything present.
Sean Sexton was born in Indian River County and grew up on his family’s Treasure Hammock Ranch. He divides his time between managing a 700-acre cow-calf and seed stock operation, painting, and writing. He has kept daily sketch and writing journals since 1973. He is author of Blood Writing, Poems (Anhinga Press, 2009), The Empty Tomb (University of Alabama Slash Pine Press, 2014), Descent (Yellow Jacket Press, 2018), and May Darkness Restore, Poems (Press 53, 2019). He has performed at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Miami Book Fair International, Other Words Literary Conference in Tampa, Florida, and the High Road Poetry and Short Fiction Festival, in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He is nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received a Florida Individual Artist’s Fellowship in 2001. He is a board member of the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation, Lauraridingjackson.org, and founding event chair of the Annual Poetry and Barbeque held each April, now in its tenth year. He also co-founded Poetry and Organ Advent and Lenten Concert Series at Community Church in Vero Beach, Florida, ccovb.org, featuring nine concerts annually, attracting poets from all over the United States. He became inaugural Poet Laureate of Indian River County in 2016.