At dusk, a great flare of winter lightning photographed the bay:
Waves were broken scrolls. Beyond Donegal, white mountains
hung in a narrow bas-relief frozen on sky.
Later, there was sleet: trees down
on the Drumholm road; near Timoney’s farm, a frantic goose
pinned under branches.
All night long, we spoke of loneliness,
long winter, while winter sang in the chimneys.
Then the sky cleared and a marvel began: The hills turned blue;
in the valley a blue cottage sent up the day’s first plume of smoke.
It gathered like a dream drenched in frost.
That should have been all. We had worn out night.
But single-file, deliberate, five heifers, a black bull, three calves stepped through the broken fence.
They arranged themselves between the house and hedge: a kind of diagram:
a shifting pattern grazing frozen weeds.
Their image is with me still. The backs of the cattle are patchy with frost blue as morning.
– John Unterecker, “Midwinter”