[from Kevin Prufer’s National Anthem, Four Way, 2008]
A Severed Cow’s Head
I wanted, almost, to touch the single eye
to roll back to the skull’s dim heaven. Pinpricked
pupil, eyewhite matte and shot
with red — the eye
that hadn’t had enough.
of the world: scrub field
the cut head pressed against, and rain that died
on the mud-splattered face, the melting snow —
I could not help
but recall that friend who, at 22, suddenly
knew he was dying. He cried outside
his neighbor’s door, knocked,
until she called the police,
until he fell from the porch
into her garden,
where, hours later, an officer found him.
I cannot say if his eye —
The cow kept watching
as rain undid
the swiftly melting, snowy field,
as the sun rolled down the barn’s black roof
into blacker trees.
Some of the hairs in its muzzle
were white, others moth-wing gray.
I won’t know how to say goodbye when,
I have to.