False Cattleguard

The cows disappoint.
That will to greener pastures—
stopped short by a painted-on grate,
bovine trompe l’oeil.
And we had so admired
the slow current of their wisdom:
accepting as impassable
the genuine gaps and rails
on the weight of self-knowledge
(wobbly hooves, delicate hocks).
Now they are made fools,
gathered in loose groups,
moon-eyed and thwarted,
at the slant end of the fence—
much as we might gather
at the wide-spaced slats of change,
unable to risk a step.

This poem first appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review No. 30, Winter/Spring 2005.