Cows Under a Tree

There is a shadow round the tree;
It shelters seven cows and me.
The seven cows have fourteen eyes,
Which view me with a grave surmise.
Three legs, they think, would be too few;
how does this creature stand on two?

There are, or so I calculate,
Some thirty legs among us eight-
Say, three legs and three-quarters each.
The mathematics that they teach
Must be in some respects awry-
One leg and seven-eighths per eye?

I clutch with an uneasy hand
The average legs on which I stand,
And find them two, and find them whole,
which findings much relieve my soul,
the only one (so say the wise)
that lurks behind our sixteen eyes.

R. P. LISTER
THE NEW YORKER
OCTOBER 25, 1958

cows-under-a-tree

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