by Luisa A. Igloria
"There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men."
Out of a pit, they’ve found a woman’s bones— whittled by time,
beaded with dust, clutching the ambered remains of a cow.
Was she matriarch, widow, wife? Did she die struck by illness or blight?
Archeologists say her wealth and status are proven by this cow.
Some days, I quip to friends and family that my name might as well be
Bob (short for Beast of Burden): but, life’s yoke being heavier than a cow,
would I really want to take it with me? In Chinese burials, the dead
(their spirits, that is) are ferried to the afterlife: not on cows
but in paper limousines inked with symbols for wealth; stuffed with coins, bills,
sweets, cigars, what one liked here enough to take to there; but not a cow—
In the winding Cordilleras I call home, the dead are neatly tucked among
the hills, with jars of betel nut and agate beads—never with a cow.
And a friend writes to remind me: in Hindu myth, should the population
be in danger, they’ll save the women, children, and their cows.
The cow that in this life was cow, does it remain the same? Does it dream
of feathered grass in the fields, of gnats, the low symphony of fellow cows
chewing their cud? They poke at beetles the color of jewels
—embellishment on face plates of sleeping mummies. The cow
as sacrifice, as plenty, as months of food and fat and solid warmth.
And the woman: how was she loved, missed, valued more than cow?