Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The White Cow

Callanish, Lewis

by Sharon Black

She emerged from the sea, udder fat
as a skinned sheep, the islanders thin as chaff –

said, Bring your pails to the old stone cross,
barely a skeleton itself,

where she stood, a white henge
at the centre of the ring, let them

draw their fill. Moon flowed through her.
Each night a bucketful for every man,

her hooves strong in mud, legs not ceding
to the milkweight.

A crofter with two pails arrived – No. Next night,
coaxed her dry.

On her hind hooves, she rose to her full height,
become a rudder –

seven tons of Lewisian gneiss –
of a ship invisible by day, like the one

that dazzled the island’s young men
with talk of the New World,

eventually sailed them away.