Poem | Cow of Plenty | Catherine Gonick
Poetry is based on telling a story. But how makes all the difference. Here Catherine Gonick creates a perfect eulogy for someone with her skilled narrative. If someone cries onstage we admire the skill; If an actor implies tears, we cry. So it is with this fascinating description of a sister’ s life well loved and lost. - Grace Cavalieri
Cow of Plenty
My sister adored cows, but I didn’t understand
the attraction. She found music in their lowing,
tenderness in their gaze. As we hiked
past a herd, keeping our distance
so we wouldn’t spook them, or get between
any calf and its mother, she’d say,
I cherish those faces. I felt uneasy,
as if their blankness might be hiding
angry spirits. She saw pure love
look back from their hypnotic eyes.
I knew what she craved the morning
she told me, If you really cared,
last night you would have picked me up,
given me your bed. I’d do it for you,
if your mind was scrambled eggs.
By then she’d been bucking for years,
felt weakened, like a bull slashed
by picadors and banderilleros.
She was sick of her husband, weary
of psych wards like bad motels
with stale chips and no ice. After concerts,
she drove home alone in her orchestra
dress, her handmade viola locked
in the trunk of her red, two-seater.
There were times she pulled over, waded
into the black evening ocean,
up to her neck. She said, If I had money,
I’d get the best shrink on earth. I thought
she needed one like Kamadehnu,
the divine cow who gives all she has,
unlike our mother, who threatened
over Cheerios she might not be around
when her child got home from school.
The day my sister drove in pre-dawn darkness
to her death, her husband suffered
only a hairline crack to his clavicle,
yet couldn’t remember what happened
before the crash. Did four hands fight
on the wheel? Did she swerve toward
a suit of lights, leap a fence?
The next time I stopped by cattle,
I watched them eat in silence
and thought about being a cow
so hard I slipped inside one.
I stood, solid as a truck,
then lowered my head, bowing
all the way down to the earth
to receive its grass. I’ve never nursed,
but I could feel the tug of milk.
Catherine Gonick’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Boston Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Review, Sukoon, and Notre Dame Review. She was awarded the Ina Coolbrith Prize for Poetry and was a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. As part of a startup company that turns organic waste into clean energy and biochar, she divides her time between New York and California.