Before We Can Speak to Her About Death by Tricia Asklar

The seized horses’ ribs poke out, hooves
soft and cracked on the hard ground.
My daughter hangs on the wood fence far below
the electric line and watches the hay push into mouths.

A rescue employee rounds the corner, warns
us away. A cow died this morning, he says.
We’ll be dragging her across this path, so
you can’t walk through for a few minutes.
We wait. I talk to the guy about the cow,
how she’s been here 12 years, how they can’t
fix the horses split hooves until the courts
grant the shelter custody.

You’ll want to make sure she doesn’t see,
he says as the tractor begins the brief
journey from pasture to barn.
When the gurney appears behind the
John Deere, I’ve followed my two year old
to the water trough and a bay whose muzzle
dips into water and stirs. How you can’t
really see them take in water.

I block the bulk
of the side-lying cow in the distance.
A woman kneels beside the cow on the drag,
looks right back at me. The air is still,
a cloche drops over us.
The enormous body crosses—framed
through the fences, until she skirts the barn
to the left and disappears behind it.

Shortly after, we see the man approach
the remaining cow with a bail of hay
that unravels in his hands.



Tricia Asklar received her MFA from the UMass Amherst and most recently taught writing at Nazareth College of Rochester. Her poems have appeared in Bateau, Boxcar Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, juked, Neon, Poet Lore, Red Wheelbarrow, and Verse Daily. She lives with her wife and three children near Boston.