The Glass Chess Set

He woke to find a glass chess set
by his head, on the bedside table.
The vitamins had been removed,
the lamp shifted to the floor,
the two glasses of water were gone –
all this done without a noise.
He sat up to see it better.
Everything was glass – the board,
the pieces, half of these clear,
half opaque, as were the alternating
squares. He got out of bed to
stand above it. One opaque pawn
had advanced, the clear team
nearest to him had made no move.
It was his turn. Who was
his invisible opponent? He opened
the shutters to let light in,
recalling his last game of chess
with his father. It had been Xmas.
He’d lost, of course, as always.
Well, he remembered winning once,
then refusing to play for years.
He glimpsed the set’s reflection
in the mirror, saw for a second
a shadow stood there, then it was gone.
He sat down, studied the board,
and slowly, moved a clear pawn

The Sick Cow

The sick cow lay on the wet grass,
mooing and mooing, her belly
as big as the smallest moon of Venus.
A black and white collie stood at the edge
of the sloped field, barking at her.
The cow paid as much attention as the sun
which did its best to spotlight the bloating.
Country music seeped from the hotel,
dancers twirling invisibly behind walls.
The sick cow began to roar, sending
the dog into a staccato volley of barks.
A walking couple stopped to stare,
then hurried up the road. The farmer
materialised in the field, then disappeared.
He returned in the passenger seat of a car,
whose driver removed from a bag a long
knife which he plunged in the cow’s belly.
Gas and a foul smell whooshed out.
The cow mooed and roared, then lay
as still and quiet as a waiting roast.

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Vol. 32 No. 24 · 16 December 2010

‘The sick cow lay on the wet grass,’ Matthew Sweeney writes in his poem ‘The Sick Cow’, ‘mooing and mooing, her belly/as big as the smallest moon of Venus’ (LRB, 2 December). Except, Venus has no moon at all. The planets that do have more than two moons are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (which used to be a planet).

Norbert Hirschhorn
London NW6

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