Valerie Pavilonis

Once I saw a cow die on the street in Bangalore.

Lying on its side, it craned its neck toward the sun.

Blood leaked out onto the asphalt,

the process of dying almost mechanical,

the emptying of batteries.

I watched, my eyes glued to the performance,

but I could not feel anything thump

in my chest;

it seemed there was only a stone.

What pained me was not the sight of death but the cow’s solitude,

how the cars and people bustled fast and close around the cow,

leaving it utterly alone.



Once I woke up sweating in bed.

I was the cow thrashing on the street.

Garlands had been pressed into my ears and skin;

you could not tell my blood from the crushed red flowers;

I writhed on the ground, cold and unseen.

How strange it was to know the pain

of being a body alive and yet invisible.


Then I was a passenger in a yellow car,

and I watched myself decay, a stranger to my body,

a spectator to the mechanical process.

Under my eyelids, inside the noise, I saw a vision

of my father, filling in a sudoku puzzle at night,

my mother making a portrait of her mother in charcoal.

The world darkened, and my skin slid easily

off my body like a blanket.