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In Vitebsk There Lives a Cow

     after Marc Chagall's I and the Village

whose rolling eye is as loving as a mother's.
I go to her stall to breathe straw and dung,
to place cornmeal bread and potato scraps
between her lips, feel her spit drip onto my palms.

I place my cheek on her flank, warm with grass,
and hear her four stomachs pluck a tune;
this is her song to me—a Vitebsk lullaby.

At the shtibel I give thanks, Hallelujah, I cry
to a room small as prayer, and all heads turn.
Across the village, in her stall, my cow lows in reply,
while Mama pulls on her teats and hiss goes the bucket.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Prairie Schooner

Spring 2013

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