Publication Date: November, 2018
Genesis: One of the things I love about poetry prompts is they sometimes coincide with an idea I’m already playing with…or one that can be somehow shoehorned into it. I really didn’t expect to get away with this one! Most people broadly have a fairly fixed idea of what translation is – and it doesn’t usually involve a field of cows! So the poem is called ‘The Medicine Walk’. This is a shamanic practice that involves walking with an intention firmly fixed in the mind, which often takes the form of a question, all the time being in the moment, consciously scanning for some sort of sign or message that serves to answer the question you’re asking. Of course, spotting such signs is only part of the skill; the other part is…ahem…translating what you see into useful, actionable information. However, I did make this a little clearer for the judges at the site, and gave it a second, alternative title – ‘Translating a Cow’.
As I walked through the gate, I set my intention, Before setting off across the field. I walk consciously. Mindfully. And slowly, To avoid disturbing the cows, peacefully grazing In the soft, summer light. I walk in innocence, in a meditative state, Acutely aware of the swooping swallows, The calls from the rookery in the trees to my left, The smell of warm cow, of warm cow-pat, And of fresh-cut grass in the next field over, Gently mellowing into hay. I’m alert, scanning for the smallest sign That may be a message, or part of a message, From the Universe, from Great Spirit. Maybe from God, but that’s not a name I use, Buried as it is beneath millennia of baggage and bloodshed. Circling back now, back towards the gate, I am moved to rest beneath a magnificent oak, My back against its ancient trunk, To sit. To be. To observe. I close my eyes to further empower my ears. When there’s sound and movement in front of me, I keep them closed, aware of something unfolding For my benefit, in service to my intention. When the footsteps and shuffles and grunts have stopped, And there’s only snuffly breathing to be heard, I open my eyes – slowly, Lest even my moving eyelids break the spell – And there, lying right at my feet, Looking straight at me, Is a beautiful Jersey cow, with a horribly runny nose. It feels like her huge dark eyes are looking Deep into my soul. She’s so close, I can almost touch her, And her breathing is laboured, rasping. On a medicine walk, one of my key guiding principles is this: The more unusual the event, the more important the message. As she gazed at me, and I looked at her, I silently asked – What are you here to tell me? The answer came almost immediately – I represent your feminine side. And I am sick. I let the revelation sink in, Hearing the clear, soft, persistent ring of truth. I sat still, under that beautiful oak, Long after she’d got to her feet and wandered away, Right till the sun was low in the sky, By which time I’d vowed to connect With the female aspect of my being, To love, to nurture, to engage and to heal. As I headed home, it struck me That she was the only Jersey cow in the entire herd. As I passed her, she completely ignored me, And her nose had regained a healthy shine.