Cows Out

is what our beagle-dachshund’s waking bugle must have meant
at ten minutes to midnight, though Karen’s reaction,
like mine, was “What was that?”  We listened
for a portent, as we always do, in fearful hesitation
to expose ourselves to what was lurking beyond the glass.
We cannot lock our old farmhouse, allowing self-congratulation
on the safety of our neighborhood by day, but conjuring a murderous morass
at night.  I sweat at being spied on by some horny-headed creep
arrayed in camouflage with rifle and fixed bayonet, who’d pass
our unlatched door and wander in to kill us in our sleep.
He’d barge in from jeeping on a logging road, juked-up on junk,
staggering and swaggering with sin, coiled to leap
upon and stab our naked throats. But as in other wakings, loud Ellie’s funk
announced no house-fire, home-wrecker, or serial slayer,
but a wandering herd of Holsteins out of their bunk
and standing hip to shoulder in one waving black-and-white layer
of short-haired flesh. At first I heard one tell-tale moo,
rolled over on my side, and resumed my dreaming, aware
that a wayward heifer in the yard, given all the things we rue
and fear in this existence, might not be the worst of visitors to have.
But when I heard the crunching gravel indicating two
or more of those kine vagrants there, I shone the light and laughed
at the encroachment of these beasts, either dumb or otherwise.
I got the number, called the farm. The girl who’d raised the cows from calves
arrived, and right away the bull she’d fed by hand made eyes
at her in earnest: he saw her as a heifer to steer into.  “Oh, the bull!”
she moaned. “He’s following me. What do I do?”  And in those plaintive cries
to bovine sisters, I heard the horror of Europa — in that awful lull
between her plea and no reply. The ardent bull was pressing toward her knees:
his lust was real. Was it metaphoric for the Greeks (that push and pull
thirty centuries ago) or for the Cretan bull that housed the highest of their deities?

[Walt Garner teaches middle school students about English and social studies and tries his best to instill enthusiasm for learning.  He lives in central Vermont with his wife, Karen, three dogs (including Ellie), five cats, and three sheep.  Four grown children live not too far away, forging lives of their own and accompanying their parents on hikes and camping trips.  He has a master of arts degree from the Bread Loaf  School of English.]


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