Peasant Woman Watering Her Cow


c. 1863
(oil paint and black conté crayon on pink prepared canvas)

dessin peint

Fall skies glow pink and golden on a ground
Prepared and worked — the canvas and the land —
Black bones of crayon drafts left showing through
These watercolor washes drawn in oils.

Late afternoon still lingers as it fades,
The sun’s north rim descending to eclipse,
And all that moves or stays on Chailly Plain
Is blended in one dimming silhouette.

Along horizon lines of mind and earth,
Crossing a rise just on perception’s edge,
A shepherd leads his straggling hollow flock
From scanty pastures home to feed on sleep.

And where the shades stain scrub a deeper green
Dead stunted trunks angle toward light and rain.
A woman walks on stones beside a pond,
Watching her cow drink water from the stars.

Lapped ripples crest and spread near skin-tight ribs,
Gaunt haunches, udders giving little milk.
A head’s reflection noses toward the air.
From a full barn’s loft-window no bale falls.

The moon protracts a single lighted claw.

David Middleton is Poet in Residence Emeritus at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. His books of verse include The Burning Fields (LSU Press, 1991), As Far as Light Remains (The Cummington Press [Harry Duncan], 1993), Beyond the Chandeleurs (LSU Press, 1999), The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet (LSU Press, 2005), and The Fiddler of Driskill Hill (LSU Press, 2013). New verse by Middleton has appeared recently in The Sewanee Review and The Southern Review.

First published in Measure, Volume 12, Issue 1 (2017)