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Cows Analysis

Author: poem of Paul Muldoon Type: poem Views: 9

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Even as we speak, there's a smoker's cough

from behind the whitethorn hedge: we stop dead in our tracks;

a distant tingle of water into a trough.

In the past half-hour—since a cattle truck

all but sent us shuffling off this mortal coil—

we've consoled ourselves with the dregs

of a bottle of Redbreast. Had Hawthorne been a Gael,

I insist, the scarlet A on Hester Prynne

would have stood for "Alcohol."

This must be the same truck whose taillights burn

so dimly, as if caked with dirt,

three or four hundred yards along the boreen

(a diminutive form of the Gaelic bóthar, "a road,"

from bó, "a cow," and thar

meaning, in this case, something like "athwart,"

"boreen" has entered English "through the air"

despite the protestations of the O.E.D.):

why, though, should one taillight flash and flare

then flicker-fade

to an afterimage of tourmaline

set in a dark part-jet, part-jasper or -jade?

That smoker's cough again: it triggers off from drumlin

to drumlin an emphysemantiphon

of cows. They hoist themselves onto their trampoline

and steady themselves and straight away divine

water in some far-flung spot

to which they then gravely incline. This is no Devon

cow-coterie, by the way, whey-faced, with Spode

hooves and horns: nor are they the metaphysicattle of Japan

that have merely to anticipate

scoring a bull's-eye and, lo, it happens;

these are earth-flesh, earth-blood, salt of the earth,

whose talismans are their own jawbones

buried under threshold and hearth.

For though they trace themselves to the kith and kine

that presided over the birth

of Christ (so carry their calves a full nine

months and boast liquorice

cachous on their tongues), they belong more to the line

that's tramped these cwms and corries

since Cuchulainn tramped Aoife.

Again the flash. Again the fade. However I might allegorize

some oscaraboscarabinary bevy

of cattle there's no getting round this cattle truck,

one light on the blink, laden with what? Microwaves? Hi-fis?

Oscaraboscarabinary: a twin, entwined, a tree, a Tuareg;

a double dung-beetle; a plain

and simple hi-firing party; an off-the-back-of-a-lorry drogue?

Enough of Colette and Céline, Céline and Paul Celan:

enough of whether Nabokov

taught at Wellesley or Wesleyan.

Now let us talk of slaughter and the slain,

the helicopter gunship, the mighty Kalashnikov:

let's rest for a while in a place where a cow has lain.

Anonymous submission.


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