The Book of
The Eton CowThis is the book of the dun cow.
It is to be treated with reverence.
Stowed bound in silk, in silver.
The book is revered for the skin
from which its pages are made.
Skin of the dun cow.
Blessed cow of the saint. His
heifer with her twisted horn,
milk spilling from her swaying udder.
He loved her, followed her
wandering. Slept pressed to her side
on frosty upland. Her spindly calf.
And when she died cradled in straw
he skinned her, blade tugging at tufts
of belly hair, slitting neck and knee.
He stretched her skin, pegged it to
dry, legs splayed. Soaked it in his own
piss to soften, then cut it in squares,
shaven and stitched to make a book.
Now he is seated in a stone cell
to write the words that matter most
to him, on the skin of his dun cow.
But when his eyes tire with writing
he can rest his forehead on the desk
and smell it:
the scent of the dun cow and the
winding way she led him, the
damp lick of buttercups, the
green plop where he could
warm bruised feet, when the
way was all stones and frost
made the ground
too hard.--- From The Pop-up Book of Invasions
©2007 Auckland University Press
Auckland, New Zealand