The Ranch House

Thirty head of cattle (Registered Polled Herefords)

stand knobby-knee-deep in tired, ice-studded fields,

their breathing rhythmic, unhasty.

Inside he knocks his splitting knuckles on countertop,

maneuvers a toothpick around his mouth, and squints.

She stands at the sink, running a thin line

of warm tap water into the bowl of yeast,

swirling it methodically with the momentum of her wrist.

He grunts, strides to the door, swings it ajar

lets in a gust of brumal air.

She inhales sharply through her teeth

as it surprises her bare feet

he pauses, but she laughs – a high, hurried fluttering

like wings of the hummingbirds who visit even in January

to submerge their slender beaks in the sugar-water she faithfully offers.

Meanwhile, the dough rises in residual heat atop the mantle.

From the window she watches him hay the herd,

sweet steaming breath mingling in clouds

He rounds the hay ring slowly to pat each chewing creature.