I watch as a spotted cow tenderly licks another cow beneath an ear
shaped like one leaf of a four-leaf clover
in a barnyard shouldered between secondary roads and a brand-new
modular home, where three guys heave-ho
at a cable big around as my arm, trying to get the house hooked up to a
utility pole, and for some reason
they remind me of subjects in a painting, a bucolic pastoral, or a heroic
tableau of some legendary battle’s pivotal moment—
planting a flag, hauling in a lifeboat of the half-drowned—you know, the
kind where if anyone’s dying, they’re doing it
so monumentally it’s only an aesthetic, abstracted kind of sad? I rely on
that distance. Anything to keep the brick off my chest.
But I can’t stop looking, either, and the cows are spavined, underfed, the
house someone punched the clock hard to buy
is ugly, almost windowless. And the men are stalled. They spit, look
defeated. Then again, maybe I’m wrong, maybe they’re just
taking a break. I can’t always tell the difference between sad and sweet;
sometimes they taste the same to me. It’s a confusion
to which I’m prone, an allegiance, I won’t say religion, but it could be the
only way I know how to pray. I keep tasting that ear,
tongue, those muscled backs, sweat and indecision, tenderness,
disappointment. A little bite of each, a redistribution of weight,
a feeling like a door in my chest scraping across its threshold, and
something else, a vibration, maybe a swarm of bees.
Copyright © 2018 Amy Dryansky. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.
Before this day I loved like an animal loves a human, with no way to articulate how my bones felt in bed or how a telephone felt so strange in my paw. O papa— I called out to no one— but no one understood. I didn’t even. I wanted to be caught. Like let me walk beside you on my favorite leash, let my hair grow long and wild so you can comb it in the off-hours, be tender to me. Also let me eat the meals you do not finish so I can acclimate, climb into the way you claim this world. Once, I followed married men: eager for shelter, my fur curled, my lust freshly showered. I called out, Grief. They heard, Beauty. I called out, Why? They said, Because I can and will. One smile could sustain me for a week. I was that hungry. Lithe and giddy, my skin carried the ether of a so-so self-esteem. I felt fine. I was fine, but I was also looking for scraps; I wanted them all to pet me. You think because I am a woman, I cannot call myself a dog? Look at my sweet canine mind, my long, black tongue. I know what I’m doing. When you’re with the wrong person, you start barking. But with you, I am looking out this car window with a heightened sense I’ve always owned. Oh every animal knows when something is wrong. Of this sweet, tender feeling, I was wrong, and I was right, and I was wrong.
Copyright © 2018 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.