Word Poetry




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Sample Poems by Marcia Slatkin


It starts: a splash
stains your udder.
I see jutting neon teats.
Your grunts plead.

I stroke your nose
and offer feed
as a man's hand
invades the space
where hooves and head
are late. He tugs

your half-born, wet,
from your womb.
Neck bells
bash your teats
as you turn
to lick its feet.

One last twist
and the stall is a morgue,
your bleat a scream.
Young bones snapped,
your blood and sap
splash to the straw.

Next day,
your milk is rich.
my fingers ache
with the taking.
I buy ducks as company,
and their twittering distracts you.

But often,
you sniff the straw, lick
the walls, paw the ground
for all that's hidden, lost,
that was yours.


He passed through May
like a cloud.

Born too soon,
skin stung by straw
and the grate of a mother's
tongue, his eyelids
fought off morning light.

Hooves translucent,
long legs folded on fur
white as dandelion fleece,

he could not even swallow milk
I dropped behind his tongue.

His lungs pumped
in sporadic gusts.

forced food
down tubes.
He drowned.
His round eyes glazed.

I felt him spread
and slowly drift away.

The skin I held
turned lumpy, cold--
a matted doll
sparsely stuffed with clay.


Twice a day it is the same:
I swab goat skin,
pink beneath the fur,
my arm taut
before the sharp steel sinks.

Everywhere I go, I practice:
car wipers are needles,
the shift stick a quick plunger.
My wrist arcs
as it attacks air.

How I dread it:
a pull into traffic,
a dive deep under,
a leap from a wrong train--

between now
and after.


Some nights
I come to visit,
both of us middle-aged
and missing our children.

The sour smell of udder
seeps through fog.

At leisure now,
unlike the pump and clatter
of morning milking,
we stroll.

All signposts torn
during our great sorrow,
we will not roam alone.
I hold branches down,
you lick my hand,
and browse.

In the stall,
I add straw,
yet you paw, bleat,
lick walls soaked
with the scent you seek,
search the hay for clues,
plead with any shape you see--

and finally
retreat to sleep.