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by Michael Atkinson

At first, there was cow.
Cow stood chewing.
You kill it, with a rock.
Next you let it mate and spawn,
so your rock will always know cow.
Your rock has a name now: eegah.
Then, you confine cow, with a fence
made of other cows’ bones.
You’ve been killing and eating cows
for awhile, so the bones are everywhere.
A house made of them, perhaps, someday?
Next, you milk, and decide to kill
half the cows, the ones that don’t nurse.
Then, since they linger now and you’ve
grown fond, you name them, even those
without milk: Sally, Robespierre, Too Fat,
Rockaway, Mars, Nairobi, Fred.
Your land is a mess of bones and milk
and cowshit and dirt too trampled
to grow grass. So cows begin to kill
each other. You write a dissertation on why.
Your wife having left for greener fields,
next you sleep in the dead pasture
surrounded by bones, coming up behind
cows at night, whether or not they want you to.
When they protest by bucking and running,
you kill them again, but bury them.
The acquiescent cows bears acquiescent calves,
and you fuck them and sell their milk.
Weary from cow-sex, you let the milk
curdle in the dirt and invent cheese.
Thereafter, all of it is performed by
a staff of thousands, even the sex.
You think about branching out: horse.
What does its milk taste like?
That brings us up to the present.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 2.

Michael AtkinsonMichael Atkinson has published seven books, including the poetry collection One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train, and has had poems in Crazyhorse, New Letters, Ontario Review, The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals. He teaches at Long Island University.

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