“The Cows” by Elizabeth Jacobson
Now that I have read this story about the cows
I think of them at night when I cannot sleep,
how they are so still in their grassy field,
seemingly suspended like animations of themselves.
Even though there are only 3, I count them over and over,
envision them as if I were floating above their pasture,
observe the different stances they choose:
the 3 of them standing bottom to bottom, or
head to head,
sometimes in a row, one behind the other
sometimes side by side.
They stand where they want and nurse their calves.
They lie down in their field when they feel like it.
If the farmer wants to kill one, and it won’t get in the truck
he gives up and lets it live.
If the farmer wants to sell one, and it won’t get in the truck
he gives up and lets it stay.
I am glad I read this story by Lydia Davis.
I like to think of how she stood in her window and watched these cows.
I imagine how she may have moved from inside her house to outside her house,
depending on the weather, to stand and watch these cows,
month after month,
and although the details of their days are rather plain
she wrote a very essential story.
Right before I fall asleep I think about how there are no cows where I live
but there are mountains,
and I watch them move in this same way.
They open and close, depending on the weather
and like these 3 cows, these mountains are a few of the things left
that get to live exactly as they must.
NOTE: The Cows references a story by Lydia Davis from her book can’t and won’t.
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Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of a chapbook, A Brown Stone (Dancing Girl Press), and a full
length collection, Her Knees Pulled In (Tres Chicas Books). She is the founding director of the
WingSpan Poetry Project which conducts poetry classes at local shelters. WingSpan has received
a Community Partnership award from the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families and a grant
from the Witter Bynner Foundation. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in many print and
on-line publications, most recently American Poetry Review, Orion Magazine, Hinchas de Poesia
and Plume. She is the recipient of the Mountain West Writers’ Award from Western Humanities
Review, The Jim Sagel Prize for Poetry from Puerto del Sol, a grant from New Mexico Literary
Arts, and an MFA from Columbia University. This fall she will be teaching at the Santa Fe
Community College and at the Ghost Ranch Writing Festival in Abiquiu, New Mexico.