Indian River County
Sean Sexton grew up on his family’s Treasure Hammock Ranch in Indian River County and divides his time between managing a 700-acre cow-calf and seed stock operation, painting, and writing. More of a “poet cowboy” than a “cowboy poet,” Sean is deeply involved with the poetry community, having read at the Miami Book Fair International, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, and the High Road Poetry and Short Fiction Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He’s currently on his second term as the poet laureate for Indian River County and is in the running to become the state’s poet laureate. This February 17th and 18th, Sean has been invited to perform at the Lone Star State Poetry Gathering in Alpine, TX.
Sean has kept a daily sketch book and writing journal since 1973, capturing thoughts and images of daily life on the ranch. He shares his poem “Old Cow Museum” originally published in the Night Heron Barks journal in 2022, which talks about that place on every ranch where they put cows that they can’t do anything with. “In a way it’s about old friends,” Sean says. “It’s very sentimental and very real, very sad, too.”
You can hear Sean read “Old Cow Museum” at https://nightheronbarks.com/spring-2022/sean-sexton/. His books of poetry, “May Darkness Restore” and the brand-new “Portals” can be found at https://www. press53.com/sean-sexton. His poetry book “Blood Writing” can be found at www.anhingapress.org.
Like soldiers from the front, they come hobbling—veterans of time’s war—dragging limbs, comporting brokenness—shambling on to assemble at the trough. The heifer with a turned back foot is always in the lead, maimed in calf-hood in a bovine crush, and culled from the August load to stow here, unsalable, where she’s grown and got bred out of season when a Brahma bull spirited in and fertilized her like Danae.
The elderly blind dam smells her way to feed—outpaced by the throng. We can’t send her to market—that maze opened on the trailer door as grim as her own labyrinth —where and how would she go? They’d foot us a bill for the pathetic parody played out. Here she stays until death closes her paddock of memory: every shallow and rise branch, and barb relearned again in her daily trace unless she must follow her ear—or reckon the air.
Time stands still in the Old Cow Museum,
time present, time past that empties and
fills the wombs of calf streams. Time of
no season, no accounting as the daily orb arrives to no consequence. Where the crippled brahma that can’t make it down the lane,
glows in the distance like a cumulonimbus over the Bahamas. She calved, her first year in captivity, whelp—slight as her udder— melted into the woodwork soon as we caught sight
of him. Here she stays, barren augury of an unspoken beatitude—
violating every scruple of cattle-breeding— companion to the arthritic angus matron bought one year in the Carolinas at the end of a sale. Attrition could be her name as she struggles to her portion like your grandmother through the aisles of the grocer, cries loudest when Sunday’s brunch must wait ‘til after church. And every calving season orphans emerge— to count among the world’s brood, be added in: the first timer’s get she wouldn’t own, an unclaimed twin,
Daughter of the cancer-eye cow that withered away two months shy of the wean, a listless starveling of the fretful
Madonna of the swollen teats—taken and
given to shoulders and wits, and wastrel whose mammy up and died mid-winter, she—wild as a snake—to be gotten out and finessed into this house of mishap; anyone in this business needs what they contain: an out of the way place, quelling grain, and peace of ancient dames.
At the end of suffering there is a door.
And some bright morning, we’ll find another gone off to the unfenced field, a shadow curled beneath a bough: collect of leather and bone, gather of manure, birds already there. And what we’d always taken for the wind, an unceasing benediction.