Larson's Holstein Bull
Death waits inside us for a door to open.
Death is patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn't read or write. She wasn't a virgin.
She was "simpleminded," we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She's lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories.
from In Search of Small Gods.
© Copper Canyon Press, 2009.
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The above poem arrived in my inbox courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac. Apart from being astonished at the wonderful metaphors in the first three lines, I was surprised at how ‘real’ the story of the young girl killed by the bull felt to me, even though I didn’t grow up in a rural area and have never known, or heard about, anyone who had a similar accident.
But the phrases ‘on her way home from school’ and ‘she couldn’t read or write’ and ‘she was simpleminded’ resonate with me so strongly that the girl becomes someone I feel I might have known. It’s true that simple language is capable of communicating strong emotion.
The first poem prompt for May is to write a poem modelled on Jim Harrison’s poem, i.e. create three fresh metaphors in the first three lines, BUT use the following opening phrase instead:
Life waits inside us…