Todd Christopher Cincala

The Cows

Typical how we pass them by
without a second glance
as they stand, on hind legs
outside the subway station

Handing out samples
of a new frozen dairy product
with their udders jutting out
like clusters of rubber erections.

To the summer paychecks
stretched wide across their faces, we return
not even the slimmest of smiles

Nor a hint of sympathy
for the thick costumes they must wear
zipped up, on this hottest day of the year.

We just pluck
tiny paper cups in passing
and suck, dripping litter
in our wake

Seeing ourselves perhaps as cows
in this impassive give-and-take;
a chance to do the taking
without the giving for once

Knowing we’ll be giving
soon enough at the office
and again, returning home
from the nine-to-five groan.
For us it’s too late

But not for these cows
still spirited, unbroken,
young enough to quit their jobs
and find greener pastures to roam

Before they’re corralled, stunned
rush-hour numb
and branded like the rest of us,
New Yorkers.


To a coast opposite my thought
I am brought by your hand today
Jingling keys on your doorstep
Cradling a bag of groceries
Shifting like a child in her arms.

She would have a child by now
And I know her husband, like your boyfriend
Opening the door, is there when needed
To share the burden
Where I was remote.

Years passed like tinted glass
Obscuring our past to the point I forgot
Where our paths first crossed;
There they might have led
Had I not opted for selfish empire
Instead of a shared golden state.

The past before my eye
Shuts closed with your door.
There I listen to wine uncorking
In her kitchen over lovesick laughter
And a clatter of pans.

I can no longer stand
Where I linger, staring out
Like a fish in its bowl, wondering
Why I never found the courage
To test your unfamiliar water.


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