1.  Start

They came to him at night to begin with

and that’s how it started.

That’s how the whole cow thing started.

 

2. Dreams

Occupying the road ahead

frosted and frozen in his highbeams.

Roadblock of flesh.

And always he stops

in this dream,

gets out of the car

and he stands there

legs spread,

one hand touching the bonnet

the security of the industry

the other touching the soft fabric of his pants

the security of fashion,

and the only thing moving

in this dream

is

steam.

 

3. Steam

Rises slowly off the bonnet

(to the tick tick ticking of the unwinding engine)

and steam of breath

life leaking from the mouths

of

beast

automobile

and him

floats skyward.

Because all life that leaks

floats.

All life that leaks

floats.

 

4. Message

On the side of the cow

a message is painted

‘one hundred

and you will know’

and this dream occurs several times

before he knows

that it will take 100 cows

before he knows.

 

5. Driving

Every week

twice a week

he points his car in a random direction

and he drives.

He drives to where city and country collide

until he comes across a cow

and he stops his car

and he takes his camera from the glovebox

and he photographs

the first cow he sees,

and through the lens he looks into the

glassy blackness of a cow’s eye

and he recalls the dream

and the steam

and the message,

one hundred and he will know.

 

6. Must they be real?

One week the first cow he comes across is on a billboard

by the side of the highway

and he stops and wonders

did the dream dictate whether the first cow seen

be real or could it be

an ad by the side of the highway

(for some butter spread dream)

and it seems to him

that it could,

so he takes the picture

and leaves.

 

7. Monthly Development

Once a month he develops the film

and adds eight cows to the wall by his bed,

at night

they stare over him

and he dreams of nothing

that he can remember

with certainty,

except that one time

when he dreamt of milk

bleeding

from his palms.

 

8. Simple Arithmetic

Every week

twice a week

eight random cows a month

it takes almost a year

to photograph

100

random

cows.

 

9. One Hundred and You Will Know

After placing the hundredth cow on the last row of

ten by ten random cows

he steps back

and stares

and he wonders if he knows

as the river of milk through his veins

slows,

he presses a hand to his face

the security of familiar flesh

and he touches

until

he knows,

and while the sound of cattle moving through city streets

grows

he turns from 100 random cows

he walks through the house

opens the front door

and waits.

 


First published in Going Down Swinging, Issue 24 (2006)

Sean M. Whelan is a writer, spoken word artist, occasional DJ, and long-standing Going Down Swinging contributor, with over 18 pieces published from issues #20 to #33.