keith holyoak

The Farmer Gored by His Bull

In memory of Mr. Len Carlson, who died December 22, 1965,
on his farm in Glen Valley, British Columbia

Golden one, that thrust you gave that first
Slipped through my heart caught me by surprise
And held me there, listening to the burst
Of veins feeding a warm flood on the rise.
So many changes now—your black-tipped horn
Turned red, my soul turned free, my wondering eyes
Wide open everywhere. My body, shorn
Of weight and years, is just a visitor,
Joined by a silvery thread with this newborn
Beast we have made, our coupled minotaur—
A bull’s head hoists the body of a man!
I know your labyrinth, unraveler;
Below, the world lies open to my scan—
I see how all that ended first began.

So strange, that I who raised you from a calf
Have now been raised by you! You tossed me high
To lay me low—I wonder, should I laugh
To see what comes to pass, or should I cry?
We were meant for a time when danger bound
To beauty made that beauty multiply.
I saw the way those pointed glories crowned
Your head, lit up your eyes, sparked a wild beat
That set your black hooves stamping on the ground.
To cut them, burn their roots, would bring defeat
To both of us—without his horns a bull
Is half without his sex, left incomplete,
And I, I would have missed the miracle
Of seeing you so strong and beautiful.

But still, I pierced you first.  I shoved that steel ring
Clean through your nostrils, clamped and locked it there,
Locked the surging strength of the tawny yearling
To human will, and made you so aware
That strength will yield to pain—yes, where I led
You followed, though your nostrils still might flare.
While I could hold you, many times instead
I let you loose to prance across the field
With horns that dazzled every cow you bred
And harried shadow rivals, made them yield
To you, my minotaur! Oh, we were friends
At play this wintry day when you unreeled
The silvery thread and showed me as it ends
Strength sometimes bends, but beauty rends, it rends!

© 2004 by Keith Holyoak
First printed in Poem (2004)


Farmer Gored by His Bull
© 2008 by Jim Holyoak