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.