between the age of ten
and seventeen

i milked our jersey
every day
(she gave two buckets
in the morning            slightly less
at night)

we called her  beauty

i’d take her for a half-mile walk
in the morning

stake her out among the
            high            rich grass
near jonson’s well

pick her up in the evening
after school

green grass makes the milk rich
            mama said

in the spring there was usually a calf

which I would try to hoist in my arms
every morning
every evening

believing what I’d read somewhere
that if you did it that way every day
there’d never come a time you couldn’t
            heft it

bullshit (as I learned)

in the mornings I churned butter
in a glass jar

(grandmother had the real thing)

in the evenings we made ice cream
on the lawn
talking quietly
slapping at gnats on our arms

one day I left the top off the barrel
            of bran

beauty ate too much and drank
swelled up and died

earlier they tired to make her retch

with a greased rag
but it was useless

cows got no sense

            daddy said