Nebraska Center for Writers

by Ted Genoways

the way an echo returns:
only partly.
In this way, he left himself
in corners, between the pages of books,
his thin frame slipping through windows
cracked open, becoming in place of himself

his shadow, the way a word
whispered in darkness
seems without source or direction
disappearing so completely into silence
he wondered
was it word?

or something deeper?
something like feeling the earth shift
not in tremor, but the slow movement
of drift. In the way of geology films
speeding the action forward
so eons pass in seconds,

so he imagined himself
sliding into this darkness,
both past and also present,
into the chance that he might touch
the echo
and vanish, yet

he becomes a hundred children.

Reprinted with permission
from The Dead Have a Way of Returning
Copyright © 1997
by Ted Genoways
Brooding Heron Press

by Ted Genoways

The earth is peppered with holsteins.
Coals in their eyes clutch the last glimmer
of fire. Rising out of mesquite and clods,
smeared with mud, they answer our calls,
moaning one long vowel,
that tongue-drunk song they known.

We bang a bucket and honk the horn.
Each cow groans a drawled response
but, if we step too close, ducks and stumbles.
This is the moment everything happens,
the deep sigh we take, spotting the last cow,
before closing the gate and counting heads.

They sense it. We are here to brand.
These are not my cows.
When spring comes and trucks to load them,
I will be gone. The work of slaughter
belongs to others I'll never meet.
We do our part, each one. We light the fire.

We lift the calf. We know hotter
means less pain, and we hold the head away
so they don't twist or kick.
But this heifer struggles. Not knowing the blood
ahead, she cries out anyway.
I cover her eyes with my hands.

Reprinted with permission
from New England Review, Summer 1997
Copyright © 1997
by Ted Genoways

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