Mina Bell’s Cows

O where are Mina Bell’s cows who gave no milk
and grazed on her dead husband’s farm?
Each day she walked with them into the field,
loving their swayback dreaminess more
than the quickness of any dog or chicken.
Each night she brought them grain in the dim barn,
holding their breath in her hands.
O when the lightning struck Daisy and Bets,
her son dug such great holes in the yard
she could not bear to watch him.
And when the baby, April, growing old
and wayward, fell down the hay chute,
Mina just sat in the kitchen, crying “Ape,
Ape,” as if she called all three cows,
her walleyed girls who never would come home.

-Wesley McNair