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Rev. Penelope Ann Thoms

Honorable Mention 2009 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Christian Poet:
Rev. Penelope Ann Thoms is a priest, spiritual director and chaplain for Capital Hospice in Leesburg, Virginia. An author, and award-winning poet, her play, "A New Year's Tale", was produced by the Hub Theatre group in 2008 in Reston, Virginia. She and her husband live in an old farm house in Northern Virginia with her border collie Rosie, terrier Eve, rabbit Silent Bob, guinea pig Gabby, fish and all God's creatures.

About this Poem:
While living on a farm in the west of Ireland from 2000 to 2006 while writing her book Thin the Veil: Living and Dying within Celtic Spirituality (2006), Penelope often heard the crying of the cows separated from their calves as they were taken to market. The sound always brought tears to her eyes as their mourning had a universal keening tone that inspired this poem.

Market Day

"Foghorns in the field, Nanna".
The boy woke me from my nodding
so I would know and fill my ears with cotton wool.

For forty years the old man has taken
calves to market come September.
And for twenty-five I've stopped the sound.

Cows crying sound like foghorns the boy said.
They did, so: low and deep, their loss filled our
ears for three days and nights.
Then stopped. The mourning over.

Early on they were no bother.
I even watched as man and dog
separated calves from cows,
to the trailer and away.

Their pain was nothing to me,
until the war. And my own lad gone.
So quick it was: He hopped the bus,
blew me a kiss and turned away.

It was market day and the cows bellowed
for the soft rough tongues on teats;
Their udders sore and full of milk not taken.

That day I heard them.
And my keening mixed with theirs
to fill the fields and valley, echo off the mountains
and float out to sea.

Since then, it is the cotton wool
that keeps me sane. The old man knows
and stays away until my weeping's done.

Then, he makes the tea,
touches my bowed shoulder with one
gnarled hand and with the other, gently removes
the cotton for another year.

Copyright ©2009 by Rev. Penelope Ann Thoms