Bethany Reid’s poetry books are Sparrow, which won the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize (Big Pencil Press 2012), Body My House (Goldfish Press, 2018), and The Thing with Feathers, which was published as part of Triple No. 10 (Ravenna Press (2020). She lives in Edmonds, Washington, and blogs at http://www.bethanyareid.com.
Her Dream of the Moon
Your uncle’s black and white cow is the cow
that jumped over the moon. Ask Mother Goose,
ask Chagall. Though she lands on the other side
of fence after fence, fences are never
her aim. On the scrubby hillside above the barn,
your uncle’s gamecocks strut, feathers of magenta,
turquoise, cerise, halcyon blue—
cocks strolling, cockadoodling as they stretch
razored talons. Cockfighting breeds a bird
to a love so pure, it will kill to have it.
The cow is not a metaphor, except when your uncle
grieves for his black-haired wife, the one
who keeps leaving. When she jumps
that fence, the cow’s udder is pendulous, plump
as a balloon, an udder so moonlike itself
the cow can’t help leaping over her own reflection
in the creek’s satin surface. She’s a cow
to bring in the next millennium,
a moon-faced calf every winter for a thousand years.
Preposterous cocks, shaggy dreaming cow,
hill farm set like an Ibsen play—
that moon, that bridge of stars, that tall fir
with a cloud like a tendon in its beak.
Goddamn, your uncle says, wiping his eyes, wiping
the barrel of his rifle on his red plaid sleeve.
Goddamn, he says, but she kept jumping that fence.
Our younger brother once took apart
five bicycles and reassembled them as one.
Wobbling saddle, sprocket
and gears misaligned, mismatched
wheel, missing brakes, flap, flap,
flap of a pedal, loose fender
a cacophonous screech. A puzzle
of a bike, leftover parts strewn
across the floor of Dad’s shop
like bones and entrails.
It could have been four bicycles, or three.
In another family this story would preface
my brother’s brilliant career as an engineer
or the best damned mechanic in Lewis County.
Oh, yes, people would say,
even as a boy he had a hunger to know
what makes things tick. Instead,
Matt is thirty years dead,
and our family, pulled apart,
is still put back together all wrong.