Cows in Mysore

Cows in Mysore
by Denis Mair

In that district of cow stalls, their haven is a palm-grown promenade.
They return at twilight from their routes, alone or in twos and threes
They thread their way past intersections, all motorists giving way
By day they comb the city, browsing on provender left in baskets
Each cow has a route; checking for kitchen scraps at certain spots
South of Mysore’s city center, there is this special palm-lined street
Every few addresses is a stall for cows, right among people’s houses
The contentment of cows is not a commercial slogan here
This interspecies street brings back my fondness for cows
I learned it from my father’s long deep sniffs of appreciation
In Sirsi’s Marikamba Temple, also at twilight, I see altar-stalls
Where a pair of cows are rubbed down with ghee each week
I feel fondness, expressed by someone else’s buttery hands
In Banavasi’s ancient temple, the cow-statue breathes delight
It sits before the sacred lingam, on the same level with visitors
Humble at Vishnu’s feet, it is the true storehouse of a special spark
From its expression, I know it was browsing on fragrant flowers
This thousand-year-old cow sculpture was touched by many hands
Each day worshippers touch its face, then touch their head or heart
After centuries of touching lightly, just a patina on the still-rough stone
Just a blush beginning on skin of fruit, not like in Hangzhou
Near Tiger-Run Monastery, where Happy Buddha’s belly and face
Are rubbed each day, with covetous touch, for good luck
After a thousand years, the marble shows a glassy sheen

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