Just under the dairy
farm’s hayloft,
a four-day-old calf,
big, soft, earth-
colored eyes,
looked exhausted,
slightly affronted,
already but other-
worldly, world-
weary, as if it had
been here many
times before
and was none too
pleased to be
back as a cow
in this cow-hating,
cowardly country.
“Next time, try
coming back
as a poet,” I
wanted to say.
“Then we’ll talk.”

Or maybe I should
come back as
a cow so I could
appreciate, retro-
spectively, my
present good fortune.
I think I was an
orangutan once,
perhaps a scorpion,
possibly also
a slave or a murderer. 
But never a cow
in America,
where the dis-
assembly lines at
move so fast
the animals
don’t have time
to die and so are
hacked apart, still
struggling to escape.
This one, at least,
would have a pasture
and be milked
instead of killed,
fed well, probably
even talked to.
Still I felt her
trapped intelligence,
saw the shoulder-
shrug look of rotten
luck in her eyes
and the wish to be
elsewhere, the wish to
return and begin
again I’d forgotten
I knew so well.