Poets Walk: "leaving for light"

Poets Walk: "leaving for light"

Location on Poets Walk Map: 31


The Cows at Night by Hayden Carruth


The moon was like a full cup tonight,

too heavy, and sank in the mist

soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves

of milkweed beside the road,

gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night

in summer and in Vermont:

the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms

so quiet, and the roadside willows

opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock

to remember them there, those

great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight

to the pasture fence. They turned

to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,

and I counted them–forty

near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful

like girls very long ago

who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,

and beautiful because they were

sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,

not yet, nor knew what to do

if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain

anything, anything at all.

I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.


Hayden Carruth, "The Cows at Night" from From Snow and Rock, from Chaos. Copyright © 1973 by Hayden Carruth. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.