after Suzuki Harunobu

The sinews of the ox’s body, the muscles,
betray the limits of its independence.
Opium-white and residue-black, it balances the heavy
baskets to please its mistress.
Kneeling like a child for a punishment, or
a poem before the poet, it cannot act. The girl
commands it forward with a backward glance, anxious
as a mother or a poet in the aftermath.