Rae Howells

The last Dales dairy farm

It is the silence she cannot bide:
yellow pollen drifting in the milking shed,
the red gate, unlatched and swinging wide.

It’s as though she’s lost a child, or some essential part of
her has died.
Her hand meets empty air, not a cow’s solid head.
It is the silence she cannot bide.

When the doctor said this life would have to end, she cried.
Her husband would come home, but if he worked again –
then dead.
Now, the red gate, unlatched, swings wide

and only the hens scratch where once her heifer daughters
sighed
to feel the welcome suck of calf, the lowing, butting head.
It is the silence she cannot bide.

It’s all she’s ever known, a way of life two centuries had
tried
and failed to end, til now, and no matter how she fought or
what she said
the red gate was unlatched, and swung wide.

She’s seen them right, found a new home, helped them on
their final ride.
She never had children of her own, only Molly, Maggie,
Mildred.
The red gate, unlatched, now swinging wide.
It is the silence she cannot bide.

Rae Howells is a poet and journalist from West Cross in Swansea. She has won both the Welsh International and the Rialto Nature and Place poetry competitions, and been shortlisted in the Arvon and PENfro competitions. Her collaborative pamphlet Bloom and Bones, written with fellow Swansea poet Jean James, is due out with Hedgehog press later this year.

hear Rae read her poem at Video.MOV