Ghazal, with Cow Burial

“There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.”

Out of a pit, they’ve found a woman’s bones— whittled by time,
beaded with dust, clutching the ambered remains of a cow.

Was she matriarch, widow, wife? Did she die struck by illness or blight?
Archeologists say her wealth and status are proven by this cow.

Some days, I quip to friends and family that my name might as well be
Bob (short for Beast of Burden): but, life’s yoke being heavier than a cow,

would I really want to take it with me? In Chinese burials, the dead
(their spirits, that is) are ferried to the afterlife: not on cows

but in paper limousines inked with symbols for wealth; stuffed with coins, bills,
sweets, cigars, what one liked here enough to take to there; but not a cow—

In the winding Cordilleras I call home, the dead are neatly tucked among
the hills, with jars of betel nut and agate beads— never with a cow.

And a friend writes to remind me: in Hindu myth, should the population
be in danger, they’ll save the women, children, and their cows.

The cow that in this life was cow, does it remain the same? Does it dream
of feathered grass in the fields, of gnats, the low symphony of fellow cows

chewing their cud? They poke at beetles the color of jewels
—embellishment on face plates of sleeping mummies. The cow

as sacrifice, as plenty, as months of food and fat and solid warmth.
And the woman: how was she loved, missed, valued more than cow?


In response to Cow and woman found ... in Anglo-Saxon Dig.

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

4 Replies to “Ghazal, with Cow Burial”

  1. Oh good, I’m glad you wrote you wrote a poem in response to that story! I wanted to do something with it, but wasn’t sure what. I liked the statement from the archaeologist, that finding that grave would be his crowning achievement.

  2. Oh, the amber beads crept in, or shed some light and transformation! I like the softness of your cow romance–the feathered grass and gnats and “low” symphony.

    Our woman-and-cow anthology is on the way!

  3. Me too. I’m also reminded of the last line of the Book of Jonah, a telling if humorous reminder of the importance of cows to ancient civilization: “…and also much cattle.”

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