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.

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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