Poem of the Week: 'Flora' by Siobhán Campbell
The cow is on top of her game,
her haunches fat, her bones rounded.
She feels the goddess power of her udder
in the mould-damp dark of the milking shed.
If she stays still, all may be well.
If she thinks of the cool absence of horns,
feels their undead weight balancing her head,
she may contain herself.
But if she kicks the bucket at full froth,
tips it from the milker’s raw-red hand-
then she begins a hell which gathers heat
all through the livelong days without that milk.
This poem takes such a pastoral theme- milking a cow- and turns it on its head. Here, the cow is in control, not the human, and she is ‘on top of her game’, and a ‘goddess’. Personally, I’ve never seen a poem talk about a cow in such a manner as this. The power of the cow is to deprive the people of their refreshment on a long hard day, and so the people rely on her patience and tranquility. The metaphor is clear, and it’s brilliant. The quiet power of women, their potential to overturn and overthrow, a secret, brooding power, that women, like dairy cows, are too gentle to abuse. To take the comparison of women to cows, so often used as an insult, and subtly turn it into a symbol of female power and virtue, is a beautiful thing, making this poem very unique and powerful.
'Flora' is taken from Campbell's anthology Heat Signature, which is available to purchase from our website here.
Blog entry by Clemmie Joly