Three poems

The Serenade

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.