Cows Over Vitebsk

After Marc Chagall’s Cows Over Vitebsk, 1966

the sap sleeps under the snow
the red roofs underline the evening
like a spelling mistake
in the sky above the city
are cows with human faces

in the shadow of the clock tower
a painter leans by his easel
three coats stand around

he says

‘Contrarily, to anthropomorphise is not to centre the human. Nothing is a bigger projection of the human eye than the image of the identical, blank-faced herd. That is anthropocentrism. The anthropomorphic animal isn’t a lie, but a translation. At the end of the day, a human smile is the only language we possess to show the truthful individuality of a cow in a way we can understand.’

no one replies
they turn to look up
as violins fill the sky
hoofs handle bows
breezy tails flick in time

the herd is heading south
strange music snakes
down brick chimneys into rooms
where ears prick up
legs run to windows
voices say
look up above!
the cows of wind!

The artwork that inspired this piece is currently still under copyright, you can view it online here. The featured artwork in its place was commissioned by bad apple from Mickie Loof for the 2023 Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.


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