Pastoral Fragment

Rachel Rothenberg
Winner of the 2023 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize

Somerset County, Pennsylvania

Half a cow is disappeared from the farm 
in Berlin, a two-ton Holstein, it makes 

the paper. Gone the haunches, gone the ears 
tagged. Possession pierced by the living world

vertebrae notched clean beneath the heart 
half abandoned hillside, half ascended 

under stadium lamps, tarred schoolhouse road
Blame it on the hungry ghosts, the acid lake

Blame it on the chemtrails that retrace 
benign conspiracies of dust and blight

our hemispheres riven through, the mind 
divided. Choose the missing, the fugitive

tail and hooves made off with thieves and all
is forgiven, as if they might lift upright

haloed from the stoop of clavicles, ribs
laced shut like a clenched prayer. Imagine

what crack in faith will cut us all into cross 
sections—the coins of marrow and bone 

open stars of the spinal column, black holes 
our heretic drive to gird these disparate 

parts incendiary under sodium bulbs
the sallow flush of the night lit open

hot on the cheek of the half splayed broken
the half that demands we know it lived

Rachel Rothenberg

RACHEL ROTHENBERG is an Associate Editor at Barrow Street Press and the coordinator of the Barrow Street Prose Series. She holds a MA in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature from Brown University and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island. Other poems are forthcoming in About Place Journal and Shenandoah.

Art: “Harvest Moon” by Elizabeth Schoonmaker, Watercolour and Gouache

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