Safe, we thought.
The floodwaters nestled
the arc of their udders, but no higher --
dewlaps, flanks, even the tips of the briskets,
dry. All day they stood
in the seascape meadow,
their square heads turned from the wind.
By evening they were dead.
Chill, we learned, not drowning,
killed them -- the milk vein
thick on the floor of the chest
filling with cold, stunning the heart.
We had entered the house, where silt water
sketched on the walls and doorways
a single age ring. When we looked back,
they had fallen, only the crests of their bodies
breaking the waterline. I remember
the wind and a passive light.
Then the jabber of black grackles
riding each shoulder's upturned blade.
The Atlantic Monthly; August 1996; The Weathervanes; Volume 278, No. 2; page 74.