He scurries, rounding corners, looking back
breathing hard though quietly
feeling again the hard-won key in his grip
He’s beat the jailor, and the jailor’s plan
and knows the next door is the last

Stealthily, he hurries for the wall and its door
looking around at every turn, starting at every noise
He found the key by intuition and knows it will fit the lock
He rushes the final distance to the gate and opens it

The night is still, the stars tender and friendly
He quietly, quickly, closes the gate, re-locks it
lest it be discovered opened
He sets out over the plain for the distant mountains

From on high the jail looks small
jailed within the larger jail of the plain
jailed in turn within the larger mountain jail
jailed in turn continentally
jailed in turn within the planetary jail which suffers its long
incarceration in the jail of the solar system
jailed in turn by the shackles of galaxy
jailed in turn by the distance of universe
jailed in turn by the breath of imagination

And the higher your rise
the larger the maze
and the quiet viewer sheds a tear
for a freedom so fleeting

Ulf Wolf
March 1993
© Wolfstuff

Benevolent Cows

These days,
little pains come and go
  though sometimes
  they don’t go
but linger, stand around
clearing little throats
  to get my attention,
  and as if to say:

“We have something
very important to
remind you of.”

So, I put aside my thoughts
and crumple feelings
  and hopes
  and dreams
  and intentions
  and other distractions
  into brittle little balls
  that I toss
  behind me
  over my shoulder
and so, now I attend to them
  as if to say:

“What’s so important
it couldn’t wait?”

There is some more
  clearing of little throats
but mum’s apparently
  the new word
  for nothing is said
and I am most likely
considered sufficiently
  by throat-clearings alone

Sufficiently reminded of

Must be, since some of
  these little pains
  cast a last glance
  in my direction
  to then leave
Others, though
perhaps not so easily fooled
  remain, by now
  comfortably settled
  in a knee
  in a shoulder
  in a wrist
as a constant reminder

That’s their job
  they say

(though nothing is
constant or permanent
they also say)

That’s what I hear
as much of it
  as I can
  make out


Summer fields
  and childhood skies
  arise and bring
a small nation of cows
supposedly benevolent
though I am weary of
  their intentions
  for isn’t that
  sidelong glance
  baleful, as cows go?

For the most part, though
they are content enough
and the most content
amongst content cows
are those who lick the
  huge salt cubes
  placed here and there
  in the sometimes green
sometimes yellow grass
(four in this field—all close
to paths and roads and that
thin electrical wire that hums
if you really listen and makes
the best possible fence to
keep in those who don’t like
little shocks, cows, and keep
out those who don’t like
little shocks, mes)
sculpting salty landscapes
  into the flat topside:
little valleys little peaks
rising proudly until the next
  rough tongue
licks it down to size and then
  to death
and she blinks and licks and
  is a picture of sheer
  this cow, quite benevolent
licking away down
  valleys and peaks
  topography of pleasure

They (the cows) are very
adroit at avoiding their own
  shit patties
something my feet are not
  they will find them
  square on, whenever
they run bare through
unconsumed grass.
the patty crust is so hard
it hurts my feet before
they sink into cold goo
  Other times
the crust has barely formed
and my feet are warmed by
the fresh, steaming heart
of the patty

I swear they do this on purpose


It was in my twentieth year
  that I discovered
  the joy of sharing
Until then I only had two true friends:
One called pen, the other paper
  the only ones
  who never judged
  who just absorbed
  whatever I said
  who never thought
me crazy at all
(or at least never said so)
(to my face)

Then, one night
  I can still picture me
  leaning out a third floor
  window and telling her
(the girl I knew
down there on the path
looking up at me)
  to wait, I’d be right down

And here I took
  the plunge:
Here I spoke my
  mind just so, just the
  way it stacked up
  on its own
Surely a crazy mind
  I knew that
  Pen and Paper knew that
Still, to my surprise and
  much relief
she understood with
  what must have been
  her equally crazy mind
and then we’d laugh in
  happy lunacy

That sharing could feel
  so very, very good

But how did she also
what I had yet to say
what my mind had yet
  to disclose and
what I had yet
  to discover

She discovered it first

Sharing does not grow
  more intimate that this
She waltzed right in and
  made herself
right there among thoughts
  and feelings and the
  little pains that would not
  arrive for another fifty
  or so years
She nodded in agreement
as some remote and
  mysterious two
added itself to another
  remote and
  mysterious two
to make a brilliant

But I never saw “four”
  or said “four”
she’s the one who saw “four”
  and said “four”
before I could even see
  the two sets of
  mysterious twos


At one end of the summer field
(the one nearest the church)
stood a silo hungry for
  unconsumed remains
  of the summer field
  at the end
  of summer
that the benevolent cows should
  have something to eat during
  winter months
Small as silos go, but the cows
seemed happy enough through
  that winter, plenty to last
them well into April when the
braver cows made it out
to scrape up crisp
  grassy meals
  between patches of snow
and rock-solid shit patties

Summer, they knew (and
with it, the salt cubes) was
not far off: they can tell
these things, these cows
They are wonderous
  creatures, these cows
Though not necessarily


I saw a butcher kill a pig
  Butcher gun touching the
  pink, trusting forehead
and “wham” went the charge
  and the pig
  surprised I think
just sat down without
  folding any legs
  in any direction
straight down
  as on wet
  spaghetti legs
while the butcher
probed the long hole
drilled by that metal
by that metal death
  with a thin
  flexible cane
(like you’d use
for weaving)
  that he pushed
  farther and
  farther in
almost to the end:
that bullet had
  made it
  through more than
  a foot of surprised pig
through bone and brain
and into spine
the butcher
  an old hand at this
  knew his trade well

As thoroughly dead
  as a pig will ever be

A while later
  the whole pig
had been split
  into four
  pig bits

My mom bought
one of the two
(for Christmas ham
and bacon and other
such delicacies)
and brought it home
  with us
The butcher, she said
  would come later
  to cut him up further
our one quarter
  dead, trusting piggy
into cook-able and
  bake-able portions


No benevolent cows
watched this—they all
moved away from death
in any direction that would
carry them—they knew the
pig’s fate and had little
interest in sharing it

I did not notice this
  at the time
but I notice it now
  looking back

And here’s another
  little pain
clearing its throat

Ulf Wolf
January 2018
© Wolfstuff