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Cow Bell In a Pasture


Standing upright, the tongue hangs still,
yearning for the sides like a young woman
yearning for horizons. The way it landed,
a little askew, there is room under one corner
for beings of a certain size to slip through.
Sometimes a cricket will enter, feel solemn,
question whether to, then play a note that echoes
so strangely he packs up his fiddle and leaves
the strange cathedral. In summer fireflies come
illuminate the walls like archeologists
looking for petroglyphs in a cave. And always
there is a faint light that falls through the place
where the brass was broken to make the ring.
The bell keeps a square of this pasture snowless
and grassless through the year, and has ever
since the days cows wore bells. It is only a matter
of time until a boy finds it and it will have
joyous days again, a second youth, like a widower
who remarries late in life. But more likely
it will sing again in the belly of a backhoe's claw
and be buried dumb, packed as full of dirt
as the handles of a coffin. Only when it is
taken from or buried under this pasture
will one be able to say that all it stands for
has finally vanished: the one who wore this
one last, and the man who stood at the gate
so many mornings, listening, until the day
it fell off, and she came unheralded behind
the others, appearing silent out of the mist,
so that seeing her he felt strange, alive again
to the mystery, then said, "Well, where's your bell?"
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