The Grazing Tract


by Michael Marberry

Too dumb for the big tree’s shade or too loyal
perhaps to one another, they packed themselves

near non-shelter and shared the summer’s weight
like stoic philosophers. Their hides were littered

with flies they could not swat from short-loins.
They were kind to us and our hopping of fences;

they seemed mindful of the earth and its glories.

In our stories, the cows were always somewhere
dying: a good tauroctony or a bolt to the skull.

We did not worship them. We did not marvel
at their physiology:  their multi-chambered guts

and their graze of silage and their endless shitting.
We never noticed the eccentricities of their young,

who called them mother, father. They were waiting
to run through our periphery like buffalo ghosts,

if we would let them. There is a metaphor here:
something on life or death (which always happens).

Suddenly, I know that only the living are sacred.


About the Author:

Michael Marberry’s “The Grazing Tract” was first published at Parcel. His poetry has appeared in journals like The New RepublicWest BranchSycamore ReviewWaxwing, and elsewhere and in anthologies like The Pushcart Prize AnthologyBest of the NetThe Southern Poetry Anthology, and New Poetry from the Midwest. Originally from rural Tennessee, he’s the current Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University. More of his work can be found at