Helen Courtier conveys very successfully how a terrible storm interrupted the process of milking. She recreates the fraught atmosphere and the physicality of the scene through vivid images and language that appeals to the senses. I like the closeness of Helen's observations and her strong personal involvement as she describes how the frightened cattle reacted to the violence of the elements. There's a real feeling of foreboding as the reluctant cows were plugged into the pumps and the milking began, just before the "rain hit the barn like a million meteorites".
Moniza Alvi, this term's guest poet, was born in Pakistan and brought up in Hertfordshire. She has published two collections, "The Country at My Shoulder" and "A Bowl of Warm Air".
The Last Milking
The atmosphere was distressing,
"Last milking" they said,
But the storm was coming,The wind was creeping around the farm, ready to
pounce and attack,
Like a wild animal hunting its prey.
The cows were reluctant,
Refusing to move and pulling back,
Digging their heels into the ground,
Squelching through the greeny-brown mud and slush,
As the sky blackened, clouds slowly moved overhead.
They plugged the cows into the pumps,
Squirting the jets of milk into the glass bottles,
Every cow attached to a sucking pump,
As the rain hit the barn like a million meteorites falling from the sky.
Then it came, CRASH!
The first thunderbolt,
The team panicked, hurried it all up,
The creamy-white milk swished up the pipes.
The cold, hard wind rushed through the trees.
Lightning crackling, bushes alight,
They cut the milking short, they had to.
Cows in the barn, us too,
Hearing trees fall and fences split,
Safe and warm,
Until the storm passed.
Helen Courtier, aged 13, receives "Why is the Sky?" edited by John Agard (Faber). Submitted by R Maloney of Sidmouth College, Devon, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY