Ars Poetica, with Cow

What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.
–from “Always on the Train,” Ruth Stone


She went back to look at the beast, which lay immobile except for one eye watching the girl who stood helpless beside the ditch. It soon snowed, and in the spring the cow was a perfect frozen corpse of cow, cradled in the ditch like an exhibit. The girl visited her until the cow was nothing more than bones and hide, and even then, a warm heart pumped between them.

It was easy to love the girl if you were a cow in the middle of an enormous field in a state three times the size of Ireland. Otherwise, the girl was thought strange, as many throughout time have been thought strange. She was like a tree that laughs into new centuries. In this way she defied the odds, being odd herself and brave beside the dying and the dead.

In the years that followed, as she launched herself from the tops of aspens and cottonwoods, it was the way she called herself back, that spot of field, that rite of recognition. I’m here, she would say, landing in warm shit beside rattlers and pine beetles, on buttes and precipices, and the words carried across freezing fields into the minds of cows and made her life and theirs indistinguishable.



Maureen Seaton’s new and selected poems, Fibonacci Batman, is due out from Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2013. Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, New Republic, Green Mountains Review, Prairie Schooner, and many other publications. The recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, she is also the author of a memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for lesbian memoir.


Issue #19 January 2013
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