Friday Poem – ‘The Calving’ by Ilse Pedler

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Calving’ by Ilse Pedler from her debut poetry collection Auscultation.

This cover shows an image of a stethoscope against a white background with an orange butterfly resting on the cord.

Ilse Pedler is a veterinary surgeon who works in Kendal. Her debut collection is Auscultation, which means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. If listening is a central theme of this collection, it is also about being heard. There are poems about vets waiting rooms and surgical instruments, about crisis calls, about overhearing farmers and pet owners and colleagues. There are also poems about surviving a stern childhood and a heartbreaking sequence about being a stepmother.

The Calving
Straw hastily spread
crisps under the frost’s force,
a single dusty bulb
explores the darkness.
She stamps a warning,
twists her tethered head,
the whites of her eyes
moons of fear.
The cowman and his lad
stamp their numbing toes,
thick square hands
freezing on the halter’s buckle.
I prepare ropes and a jack,
roll up my sleeves,
take off my watch and ring,
push them deep into my pocket.
I trail cold gel up my arm
like the track of a snail,
pinch my fingers together to ease
the passage and slip inside.
Following the wall of the womb
I touch nose and ear,
inch loops of rope
over knuckles of hooves,
twist the ends over the hooks
on the jack and start to pull.
She bellows her pain,
crushes my bones on hers.
We both strain to birth
this new life - and only she
and I are warm,
and I am at the warmth’s core.

Auscultation is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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