Bless, O God, My Little Cow

Milking PitcherMilking Prayer

Bless, O God, my little cow,
Bless, O God, my desire;
Bless Thou my partnership
And the milking of my hands, O God.

Bless, O God, each teat,
Bless, O God, each finger;
Bless thou each drop
That goes into my pitcher, O God!

— The Carmina Gadelica, IV, 65 from Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2011.

We invite you to spend time in contemplation with this milking prayer from The Carmina Gadelica, a collection of prayers, poetry, and folklore from the Celtic oral tradition. Then join in the conversation with your own poetic response.

You can enter into conversation with this text by adding your haiku response below.

About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Those of you who have followed Lectio+Haiku over the years will recognize this passage — it was a favorite from a few years ago. I’m reviving it for February in honor of the Celtic holiday Imbolc, an ancient pagan holiday that was Christianized as St. Brigid’s Day. The entymology of the word Imbolc is related to the pregnancy of ewes, and ewes’ milk.

    You can read more about Imbolc here:

    And you can read earlier haiku inspired by this passage here:

    My haiku inspired by this passage has to do with work. Lately I’ve returned to path-making in the woods around our house, and have been struck by how things take the time they take, and struck by how long it’s been since I just stood still in the woods and listened.

    the song of the winter wren
    takes the time it takes

  2. Brad Offutt says:

    hands one with the scythe
    he swings an ancient rhythm –
    weeds fall in neat rows

    In memory of my German-American Grandpa Breuer, who knew how to milk, how to make things grow, and how to harvest them the old way. I never could cut with a scythe like he could, but I got pretty good at it. As a kid I was impatient with this work, failing to see the blessing and the peace in it. Now I understand.

  3. fiddle music
    in the moonlit night
    Bossy does a jig

  4. homeward —
    the cemetery gate
    is open

    • haiukucircle, I especially admire the simplicity in this poem (and in many of your other posts). And when read this in combination with this month’s passage, it becomes especially multi-layered. I can picture myself heading home, and passing the cemetery gate, which takes me one place. But another image popped into my mind — that of a herd of cows heading home in the late afternoon, soon to be milked, and passing an open cemetery gate. That image had a different feel to it … more expansive to all creation. Thanks for posting.

  5. Marybeth Bland says:

    His fingers pick the strings
    The guitar sings
    we dance

    This is in memory of my grandfather who could play any stringed instrument by ear. I envy his talent. But inherited his love for music

    • Thanks, Marybeth. I like the grandfather link between yours & Brad’s poems.

      You might think about working with the phrases so that there’s a break after one of the lines, and the other two lines run together. Here’s one approach that turns the middle line into a pivot — the poem can be read so the break comes after either the first or second line (but not both). You can probably come up with another way to get one break.

      the guitar sings
      while his fingers pick the strings
      we dance

  6. Johnny Baranski says:

    from snowy pastures
    long before the old cow
    the sound of her bell

    (1st Place North Carolina Haiku Society Contest 1986)

  7. sunrise
    in the meadow
    a newborn calf

    • This is absolutely marvelous on several levels… Well done!

    • Carolyn, the first time I scanned this poem, I misread and saw “surprise” as the first line. I like your “sunrise” better (smile) because the poem conveys surprise without using the word itself, nice trick when you can do it. Thanks. I agree with haikucircle, this simple poem has wonderful layers.

  8. winter wonderland
    snow covered trees only know
    where the skiers go

    • I was thinking of pathways and cross country skiing.

    • Hi Tanya,
      I like the image of the snow-covered trees over the pathways of cross-country skiers — thanks for sharing this, Tanya.

      Something to think about: in haiku, poetic devices ch as personification are generally avoided. Instead, haiku puts the focus more on things as they actually are. I’m looking especially at the words “only know” in your poem, which could be considered personification. (We don’t know what the trees actually “know.”) I’m also not sure what those words are trying to say. That the trees know where the skiers go and know nothing else? Or that only the trees know where the skiers go? (Either way, it goes back to the problem of what trees know.)

      I could see a number of other possibilities, such as “snow covered trees / mark the path where the skiers go.” You can probably come up with others. Depends on what you want to accomplish with the poem.

      thanks again for sharing the winter wonderland, Tanya.

  9. Marybeth Bland says:

    My puppy barks
    as snowflakes fall
    friend or foe

  10. black clouds
    in the afternoon sky
    a rainbow

    • Carolyn, on Friday I was standing at the kitchen window, seeing rain with patches of sunlight between dark clouds. I thought there might be a rainbow but didn’t see one. Darkness and light together always holds special energy, doesn’t it?

  11. Marybeth Bland says:

    I wrote two haikus the other day and just now have time to post them. In a way they are related.

    juncos fly
    in and out of my yard
    I smile

    Mid winter
    buds on the cherry trees

    • Marybeth, I like both the images in these two poems. What would you think of a haiku that combined those two images? The way the poems are now, each of the final lines tells me what you’re feeling. I do like the image of you smiling, and I’m glad you’re delighted … and at the same time, the strongest haiku are the ones that give me the feeling without telling the feeling.When you tell me how you feel, then it’s like I’m standing outside the poem, being glad that you feel that way. But if the imagery in the poem can evoke the feeling in me without telling me the feeling, then I’m drawn into it. It’s a hard trick.

      mid winter–
      juncos and cherry buds
      storm the front yard

      (I wanted to get the flurry of activity that you got from “in and out,” and to get a more specific place. “Back yard” works just as well.)

      What do you think?

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        I don’t like storm thr back yard or front yard with the buds. The buds are just there not awakening yet.

        I will think of something different and get back to you

        • Okay, Marybeth, I see what you mean. Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

          • Marybeth Bland says:


            I coukd not rework it but came up with something else.that reflects the pxacific Nortwest mid winter

            then sun
            rain again

            Yellow crocuses

          • Marybeth, yes, that’s exactly the weather we’re having here too. One front after another, moving through. Wind, rain, sun, rain, wind, sun again. And through it all, spring is coming! Thanks for sharing your yellow crocuses.

  12. winter light —
    at the end of the sidewalk
    a memorial

    • Thanks, haikucircle. I like the first two lines of this haiku very much.

      The last line is a little too vague for me … the memorial could really be anything, so I have no picture in my mind, and don’t know what to feel.

      If you don’t want to make the memorial more specific, I wonder if this poem might be stronger if you expanded it into one of your haiga. Even if the image in the haiga were purely abstract, I think it might help this poem become more grounded.

  13. squirrel’s snow prints
    under a hunger moon –
    sound of wind

    • Barbara, I especially like the multiple senses evoked in this haiku — sight, temperature, sound. Even taste, in “hunger moon.” Your poem makes me feel alive.

      • Thank you for your encouragement Margaret. I hadn’t thought about how many senses were included in this poem. I am leaning toward making the poem leaner :

        squirrel prints
        under a snow moon
        the wind

        BTW I love the gentle zen like message of your poem . It took me six decades to recognize the simple truth of things taking the time they take! Great poem to meditate on!

        • Gee, Barbara, I think I like your leaner version even better. I liked “hunger moon,” but I like the economy of “snow moon” even better. And it’s interesting how much better “the wind” works than “sound of wind.” The sound is there in the word “wind.”

          And thanks for your comment on my poem! Brightened my morning. I went back to look at it and realized that I like my first cut better than the fiddle. Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone…

  14. Marybeth Bland says:

    Margaret I posted my new poem up above under your comments

  15. the old man
    makes comeback
    snow flurries

  16. Marybeth Bland says:

    snow flurries
    dust crocuses
    Mid winter

    Carolyn Hopee you don’t mind I played os your haiku. You helped add my own to it. Thanjs

    • I love it! It gives poems new dimensions. It has been a wild flurry of snow but it melted before it hit the ground.

    • Yes, I agree with Carolyn — I like how these poems are following our winter/spring/winter. Old man winter and Persephone do their dance!

      On Sunday I sat on the love seat with Bingo, and read, and watched rain/sleet/snow/sleet through the skylight.

      window snow
      the dog softly snores
      beside me

  17. Marybeth Bland says:

    I like that Margaret . I am going in a different direction describing an event that just happened

    a hawk flys over
    stelar jays shriek
    crows cry out

    small birds hide

    • Marybeth, I love the drama of the birds. The other evening I walked out out driveway to the lane and just stood and listened. Bird sounds on all sides! Another harbinger of spring. We have hawks, stellar jays, crows, and small birds all living in our neighborhood. Makes me think of all the circles of neighborhood that surround us everywhere we go.

  18. two cats
    hiss at each other
    in the mirror

    rainy day

  19. a rosy sky
    in the early morning
    a flock of geese


  20. We had a single hummingbird over-winter this year. It’s about time for his friends to join him.

    first day of March
    one ruby-throat lingers
    at the feeder

  21. For those of you who follow only in the comment stream, this is to let you know that I have posted a new Lectio+Haiku for March. You’ll find it at the top of the list on the Courtyard’s main page:

    To receive notification of comments to the new posting, make a comment on that post and click the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box BEFORE clicking Post Comment.

    I look forward to new poetry!