An arts magazine at the University of Pennsylvania
Empty Cows | Negatives on Cow Bone Film
Negatives on Cow Bone Film
When I was a child, a cicada flew into the house
buzzing around the dining table lights until my father, eager to relive his bug-catching days, reached a hand out and plucked it from the air, a body in motion now still.
It rattled in his hand like a marble in a shell, an engine stalled
a ghost of summer
We watched it play its symphony
thinking that if it could flap its wings fast enough,
then it could wade through time and shed its skin again
leave the past behind in the palm of my father’s hand
or clinging to a tree branch
Do you know that Dali painting of the clocks denaturing, melted by the sun?
the clocks denature and the memories persist
the cows melt into image negatives
white spaces in the sand
When Odysseus’s men ate the sun god’s cattle, he threatened to shine the sun on the Underworld,
illuminating the dead
would the specters look like these printer paper cutouts?
cow-shaped sheet ghosts among the white flowers
The dining table only sits three.
Even though I sit in front of them,
my parents carry a conversation with an empty chair
I forget that every time I step foot inside this house,
I wear the body that I discarded here, detaching it from the meat hook
a cicada returning to its skeleton
the flesh decays over dinner
until I am plucked clean
when only the bones remain
my parents continue conversing with the chair
already, another body hangs on the coat rack
I drown it in the stop bath
preserving the skin
I’ll donate my body to the slaughterhouse of memories.
even emptiness can carve out a space in the red earth