sharing the gentleness
two unrelated beings feel
toward each other
a grazing cow and I
in the setting sun

One of my more openly hopeless creative writing teachers used to only ever refer to the last line of whatever her students read aloud. The last line of this poem could be seen as a Hallmark Cards ending. A hastily painted am-dram sunset backdrop. Wet on opening night. A less cynical view is to let that sunlight create a silhouetting effect on the cow and the poet, Nakajo Fumiko. Both turn towards you, their shadows stretch along the ground of your imagination, eventually overlapping.

While trying to type that first paragraph I could hear two drunk people outside arguing.

sharing the aggression
two related beings feel
toward each other

Their voices jump on a bus as I read the poem aloud and time it at 8 seconds. Pound for pound, a highly efficient, gentle fighter. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a cow. Swapping Fumiko’s cow for a butterfly: Chaung Tzu wrote about a man who dreamt he was a butterfly, then woke and wondered if he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Also drunk? Tzu and Fumiko’s animal-human crossovers aren’t completely different, both hint towards all of nature and life being one giant fused entity.

One of my earliest memories is reading an interview with pop star Belinda Carlisle. She was asked, “Have you ever felt at one with nature?” I hadn’t heard that concept before. Belinda said something about being very close to a bird in her garden which was a clue for me to reverse engineer the meaning of the question. I think children are often quietly working backwards to figure things out, like I’m doing with this poem. If Fumiko was asked the same question by Smash Hits magazine, she could’ve given the poem for her answer. Fumiko becomes Belinda Carlisle, Belinda becomes the cow, the cow locks eyes with you as it turns into a setting sun, in the confusion you begin to whistle like a bird in Belinda’s garden. This morning I read this tweet:

cows are pretty calm considering the whole floor is food

Fumiko’s husband had drink and drug problems and cheated on her. She became a famous poet a few months before she died of cancer aged 32. The poem is a special moment of quiet calm from such a short, tragic life.