There is a tire floating in the Hudson. And
my grandfather, the young man who reels it in
with a knob of driftwood, is lean with horn-rimmed glasses.
His father was a mechanic. I imagine him stealing away
from the shop to follow the prints of hooves in the Pleasant
Valley mud; he never told me how he left to become a dairy
farmer. I imagine him at the table with his father, silent
as he chewed through liver and onions, his fingers crusted
with grease and rotten wood chips.
His first cow must have been an ivory chalice; a
half-blooded affair with knobbed knees. His first barn
a nest for raccoons and scrubbed whitewash. He must
have sighed as he dragged bales of hay alone—one day
he would have children for this. He can longer eat fish
from the pond—his cattle have caused it to become congealed
with algae. But the lights in his house are yellow and warm.
His new wife wraps rough cotton around wounds
from a cow who gave him trouble while milking.
The rain is a comfort: it brings corn.
The moon is a beacon: it means raccoons can be treed.
He stays away from liquor: it ruins the work ethic.
Now he would tell anyone that his way of living was
good. Good nights and good, early mornings—
entrenched with bitter coffee and mixing bowls
of cereal. The beat of the hooves in the barn is
a song, and the radio is never off—it comforts them.
I imagine nights when a cow gave birth: the lantern
in his hand, marking time with the bony legs of
a newborn calf. Always a sigh of relief when it is a
girl. Always a thumb outstretched to be sucked on.
Always hot milk waiting when he returned. A surge
of excited children waiting to hear the stories
of all the things they let themselves imagine.