A company, like cows.
Near, not quite touching.
With a shape like fat olives.
With glazed lips.
They stand waist-high, they are
centuries old, they were filled
with grain, with olive oil,
wooden lids tamped into place.
Stamped, at the throat,
with a maker’s mark,
like an eartagged cow.
Distinct, variable as earth.
Weathered like stone, their skin
is mud-mottled, thick and cool.
Scaly white in their throats
like oyster shells.
The museum labels them Jarre Biotoise,
like an extinct species,
but all these have outlived
their makers. How were they moved,
full of oil? Even empty, they carried
a great weight of earth.
Tipped, they would have the tortoise lurch
of something whose heart is stillness:
a rounded plenty,
coming back to balance,
ripples settling in the oil.