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by Brian Swann

Life was ordinary then, and I was
ordinary too, a kid. And the cows
were ordinary though each was
a totally different breed, unique,
or no breed at all, picked up
here and there, a mish-mash.
But each had her name, and I
had one too though sometimes
I took theirs, Liz or Vi, Cushie,
Hackie, I had many to choose from,
and sometimes I ate what they ate,
sweet grass stems, or cubed cow-cake,
rich and oily, delicious, and
sometimes I drove them from
byre to burn, walking behind
their hammock-hips, their
easy functions, when summer
nights still depended on stars
which gave us our first gods,
cows and bulls, and which
I could still make out in their
blue-black pastures and watch
until the bombers came for
the mines and shipyards.
After that, milk tasted of fish
and I spat it out for the cows
were now cooped up and fed
fish heads. But they still weren’t
safe and I would seldom again
see wide-horned Hathor without
seeing her fields torn apart
and stars shunted aside by
searchlights or blotted by barrage
balloons in nights of sirens and
flames, pummeled by shrapnel.


Brian Swann has published many books in a number of genres: poetry, short fiction, children’s books, translation, and Native American studies. His most recent, Born in the Blood: On the Translation of Native American Literatures, will appear next year from the University of Nebraska Press. (4/2010)

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