A Woman is Like a Cow

Just before I reached puberty, my Maltese father told me,
“A woman is like a cow,
always with one eye opened and one eye closed.”
And I wondered if he’d meant only my mother.

Just before my wedding day, my father told me
what he’d meant: “A woman always pretends
she can’t see anything, but she sees everything.
You see it in the way she shuts the eye that’s facing you
from things she’s not supposed to see,
but the other eye’s as wide open as can be
looking straight at you.”
And I wondered if he’d meant only my wife.

Just before my daughters became women
and my father passed away
after fifty years of marriage to the same woman
I realized that I’d never seen a cow
with one eye opened and one eye closed.
Maybe this was because living in the city
I hadn’t seen enough cows,
or maybe Maltese cows are different
from American cows.
And I wondered how long my mother would live.

Just before my daughters moved
far away across the world
and my wife and I lived alone again
and my mother had passed away,
I realized that I’d never seen a woman
with one eye opened and one eye closed.
Maybe this was because I hadn’t been to places
where a woman goes when she pretends
to see nothing but sees everything.
And I wondered when I’d see my daughters.

Just before I retired from my job
and my daughters stopped coming
and my wife moved far away
to the bedroom downstairs,
I realized that I hadn’t asked my father
what a woman’s not supposed to see
when looking straight at me.
And I wondered how long my wife would live.

Yet I hesitate to say my father was wrong
despite his not knowing any woman
because there is a reason, after all,
I still don’t know one either, and I know
a woman who’d say I have both eyes opened
and another who’d say I have both eyes closed.

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