At Night I Hear Animals
Behind the Moon
for the cow Cincinnati Freedom
I jumped—all the slabs
of me—and cleared six
feet of cold-blooded
fence. I fled for eleven days.
Hid when I could in the clover
and the tangle and cover
of thorns, the hedges that licked
and fed me with their lull.
Something followed me
across the dark sky after
the clouds were led away trembling.
And when the two-leggeds
arrived to nuzzle my flesh
with sledgehammers and saws,
and instead caught me in their ropes,
I didn’t know how to cry
or move the holes in my head.
But they didn’t take me home
to that house of below-zero light.
At the end I didn’t die
and that milk-bright bucket
over the mountains and fields would not hide
its loving glare. I was brought to others
who survived, and to make the day
go on past the trees, the sunlight, the ditch
where the flies ate the lilies
without a sound between them,
we grazed a thousand miles
and stayed close as we could
to the wind and the weeping smell of apples.
And when the barn got too far
to reach before the dark found us
and the birds cried like knives
and those I left behind, the steers still
shrieking in the silence of the meat hooks
that held them as a heaven would,
we crawled into each other’s wounds for a place
to drink from the sleeping sky,
to empty our thin gruel, and whisper without
disturbing the ground that, though it hurt,
did not think of hurting us.
Rob Cook is the author of three books of poems: Songs For The Extinction Of Winter, Diary Of Tadpole The Dirtbag (both from Rain Mountain Press) and Blackout Country (BlazeVOX). His work has appeared or will appear in Tampa Review, Zoland Poetry, The Bitter Oleander, Tarpaulin Sky, Best American Poetry 2009, and Issue 5 of A cappella Zoo.