“Ghosts” is the most eloquent poem I have ever read about vanishing things. She also gives great dignity to cows–one of those “invisible” animals whose suffering we’d rather not know much about.
Have you noticed?
Where so many millions of powerful bawling beasts
lay down on the earth and died
it’s hard to tell now
what’s bone, and what merely
The golden eagle, for instance,
has a bit of heaviness in him;
moreover the huge barns
seem ready, sometimes, to ramble off
toward deeper grass.
near the Bitterroot Mountains:
a man named Lewis kneels down
on the prairie watching
a sparrow’s nest cleverly concealed in the wild hyssop
and lined with buffalo hair. The chicks,
not more than a day hatched, lean
quietly into the thick wool as if
content, after all,
to have left the perfect world and fallen,
helpless and blind,
into the flowered fields and the perils
of this one.
In the book of the earth it is written:
nothing can die.
In the book of the Sioux it is written:
they have gone away into the earth to hide.
Nothing will coax them out again
but the people dancing.
Said the old-timers:
is the sweetest meat
Passengers shooting from train windows
could hardly miss, they were
Afterward the carcasses
stank unbelievably, and sang with flies, ribboned
with slopes of white fat,
black ropes of blood—hellhunks
in the prairie heat.
Have you noticed? how the rain
falls soft as the fall
of moccasins. Have you noticed?
how the immense circles still,
stubbornly, after a hundred years,
mark the grass where the rich droppings
from the roaring bulls
fell to earth as the herd stood
day after day, moon after moon
in their tribal circle, outwaiting
the packed of yellow-eyed wolves that are also
have you noticed? gone now.
Once only, and then in a dream,
I watched while, secretly
and with the tenderness of any caring woman,
a cow gave birth
to a red calf, tongued him dry and nursed him
in a warm corner
of the clear night
in the fragrant grass
in the wild domains
of the prairie spring, and I asked them
in my dream I knelt down and asked them
to make room for me.