Beyond suffering, the girl lies in the meadow,
vast, green and swelling. Her sighs sweep
the foothills, her head buried in a book
of poems as rich as her quest to belong.
White-faced cattle saunter past,
sporting floral headdresses
and Quasimodo-sized bells
below their tawny, long-boned jaws.
They move from mountain paradise to grassy
Purgatory, where they will rest and grow
and confess their sins, daily melded into
the clanging cast-iron of shackled bells.
With each surefooted step -- pirouetting
on undulations, clasping a partner
in a clumsy pas de deux -- they dance down
the path, muscle-bound and joyous.
Princesses maneuver each bump and crevice,
clanking toward the celebratory champagne and cake,
flanked by the red-and-black couture of their owners,
then delicately step into freshly fenced pens.
Leaning on a rail, carving her name in gold, the girl pets
the lead heifer, scoots past the victors’ table, dips
her finger into a wooden bowl of cream, recites a passage
from Paradise Regained, grazes, then bellows.