Cow Tree

We become our own land sometimes
—Ada Limon, “High Water”


A painter tells me of a tree
he’s passed on the road south
half a hundred times.


That its roots dig
into a creek’s bed, the only tree
in twenty acres of bottom land.


He once saw some cattle
huddled beneath it, one cow standing
as the rest reclined. As if listening
to the lone cow preach.


He’s tried to paint the tree
half a hundred times.


Blues, reds, yellows.
“I want the sky dark,” he says.


He has canvases of it—the tree,
the field, the cows
and the roiling storm above—
stacked about his house.


“I can’t get it,” he says.
Yet, still, he takes up his brush,
and moves it to canvas
like blood.


How often do we let
what’s in us die?

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