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.

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