A cow lies on her side, panting and heaving.
Her tongue slides out uncomfortably.
She wheezes. It won’t be long now.
It is a matter of time and discomfort.
Sometimes, this happens
when no one is around to witness —
the earth begins a lullaby.
Here I come to put her out of her misery.
How many times must I do this?
I can do this chore in my sleep. The rifle is heavy.
I pat her head, talking to her in a slow,
careful, reassuring way. What I say
never eases pain,
but I say it anyway, for both of our sakes.
I praise her for the years of milk, for calves.
How many times must I do this —
this kindness — it pains a heart.
The wolves won’t get her;
I’ll make certain of that.
I pray and sight.
I finish the sentence.
A shot scatters birds for miles —
echoes and rebounds, settles.
I drag the cow using ropes. I am eleven.
The sun is dry with the chorus of locust.
The barrel of the gun is hot, smoking, decisive.
I wish I could walk back in time. I wish
I was in a parallel world. I wish the line
between life and death was longer, more perfect.