We prayed for rain

Gentle soaking rain to end the drought

Rivulets to trickle gently along cattle pads

filling boggy hoofmarks at the dam’s edge

diluting then the stagnant boggy sludge

We prayed for rain

To soak into the cracked black earth,

gently bringing life to barren plains.

Filling deep holes along the creek bed

where only slimy shallow water lies

We prayed for rain

To soak down to the roots of grass

so feed would grow waist high.

Cattle now raw boned and frail

would graze and once again be strong

We prayed for rain

Lush feed to strengthen breeding cows

with fat bellied calves to suck their fill.

We would dance in gentle soaking rain

rejoicing that all would yet be well

We prayed for rain

It rained – but not in answer to our prayers

This rain assaulted the cracked black earth.

For seven days the relentless onslaught

turned each creek into a raging flood

We prayed for rain to stop

Instead it made the black soil plain a sticky bog

where weakened cattle staggered on and on

till most fell exhausted in this dirty inland sea,

too weak to take another lumbering step

We prayed no more

Wind chilled weak and wet-through cattle

huddled together to drag what warmth

they could from each other even as they died.

Piled up now in grotesque bloated heaps

We will never pray again

Poddy calves we had named and reared by hand

lie dead in ones and twos along the broken fences,

striving perhaps to reach long remembered comfort.

Will we ever erase these images from our minds?

Others will have to pray now

For help and courage to bury all our dead

Strength to feed the few that have survived.

Each day is now so desolate and bleak

yet in anguish and despair we must move on

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