Nerina Burke – Tender

poetNerina Burke has studied at GMIT and NUIG. Interests include art, psychology, and science. Her poetry and illustrations, have appeared in several publications of ‘Ropes’ (including the 2015 issue), ‘Anomalie’, and ‘Headspace’. A native of Silvertown Docklands, in East London, she spent her childhood exploring the mysteries of local post-war industrial estates. She lives in county Galway, and is currently a volunteer with Croi na Gaillimhe in the city.


Finally, she was cornered against the paddock wall
Wide-eyed through those soft lashes.
Her heart shuddering within narrow frame,
Rasping steam through flaring nostrils
Her patchwork coat
Heaving under moon’s glimmer

Our faces in shadow, we watched and waited
As she steadied,
Amber pupils catching the glow,
Of the bulkhead light

Stubborn little hooves
Punching icy pockmarks
Into freezing mud.

Limbs and muscles not yet expanded.
Denied their right to a full year
Of skittish bounding across the green.

Too soon…
Yet cultural preference,
For pink delicacies disagreed.

There in the February dawn,
Her tender innocence still
Incapable of surrender.

We leaned in to face her,
Tightening our breath, readying the rope,
Her head encircled,
Our arms straining at her vigour.
She fought every step
As we hauled and prodded her up the ramp.

Inside the truck others of her kin
Peered out through laths
She answered the lowing of fear
That filled the darkness within,
With her own defiant bellow,
Pushing her body against others
Seeking reassurance.

The rain came down,
As the bolt was hastily drawn.
Waiting out the growing storm,
We surrendered to the kitchens’ comfort,
Until the sky lightened up
Behind the downpour.

Across the yard, imprisoned calves
Panicked within the truck
Their roaring mingling with thunder and lightning

Later, after we had rounded up the beasts again,
And fixed the truck door;
It was clear: the little piebald had vanished
Into the valley for good.
Secretly I smiled, one less for market day.

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