7.10 ruminant

Thomas Renjilian

that summer / summers ago / in oregon I’d cycle the path through the research pasture

to see the cows / my cows / I called them

in texts to my exes / and to people I barely

knew / these cows meant to be studied not slaughtered

as long as they were looked at / worth looking at

my colleagues allowed them to live

chewing standing behaviorless seemingly / the air

in the valley was made of bodies / of houses burning

it was bad to inhale the pastel-pink of deleted woods / ones nearby / once nearby

where / I didn’t know

I was new here / someone I barely knew

here posted she’d been there / a cliff in the burnt spot / proposed there

I was alone here knewly

who I new / my cows

every single day I would bike to them

and it calmed me / this recurrence

of texting my exes i’m on the way to my cows

texting knew friends have you been to my cows / it was bad

and in writing these words / who was writing them /

routine became a want to break / continuously

from what was / what / the placelessness

of little trips I geotagged with names

I’d never heard said aloud / philomath / willamette /

and every day the same cows stood / behaviorless

seemingly / and I / seen from somewhere might seem /

cyclic too / in the always and the neverness

of compulsion / it was bad / like I was / herded and lowing

behind thin barbed wire orbed stems 

grew through / and my nearbyness too was weedy

and useless and yet and always I cycled

again to the cows and again the again of me

a kind of time / of tether / unmoved

by any moment / by any singular tickly pink

breath / thinking only my cows! my cows! / again / it was bad /

and feeling in the againness and the ending / simultaneous / the idiocy

of summer / summers ago / in the research pasture / it was bad

and it’s only now I know / what I called recurrence

was loss / while I cycled

to my cows / my colleagues in the pasture measured effects

of smoke inhalation / in their bovine models

like skin-burns / pneumonia / reduced

conception / they published their findings

and all this / it was bad / my cows! / happened before

the day I arrived to find / researchers in gas masks locking-up

livestock trailers / rusted silent / summers ago / all the fields evacuated


When I listened to “Pastorale” I was inspired by the idea of continuity, repetition, and automation. The concept behind the piece made me think about patterns we consider “natural” and those we consider automated or mechanical, and how routines, especially compulsive ones, collapse the distinction between the organic and mechanical and between autonomy and automation. In “ruminant” I tried to balance this suggestion of perpetuity with the gentle, varied tempo of “Pastorale” by writing in relatively long enjambed lines broken up by slashes to give an irregular pace to the cyclical language of the poem.
—Thomas Renjilian


Thomas Renjilian is a PhD candidate in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. He received his MFA from Oregon State University. His fiction and poetry appear in Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, Catapult, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He currently serves as fiction editor for Gold Line Press and Joyland Magazine and is the former managing editor of Ricochet Editions. He lives in Los Angeles.