After Working on a Dairy Farm for Six Months, I Realize That I’m a Demon & So Is Everyone I Know

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

At my summer job      on the dairy farm
           where I work from 6am to 8pm

I swing my leg over the newborn bull
                circle my arm around his neck    this

is no easy task            he bucks me
then muzzles   my chest like a puppy

      only a few weeks old        he’s already strong
I’ve broken     farm rule number one

          by naming him Zeus
the male calves are kept in a barn

away from the females            to be sold
as veal            they seem to know it

the bottle of milk goes flying
into the corner

           for the third time    sparks of straw rain onto our backs
           I try singing his favorite Smashing Pumpkins song

           “Tonight Tonight”                  believe            believe in me
while dozens of bottles grow cold                 on the red wagon &

this calf refuses to eat for the second day in a row
I get out the feeding tube       he bucks

    I mount his back & circle my arm around his neck
                      both our eyes water as I

ram the feeding tube down his throat
                                 & pour the milk down

when I pull out the tube        he sputters      hacks
           cowering in the back

but when I turn to leave                    he rams me
           & I tumble into a neighboring stall     where another bull

Claudelle                   positions one hoof on either side of my head
          stares down at me with his cosmic eyes & parabola of lashes

meanwhile Zeus         running at break-neck speed
           sneaks his lean body through the crack

           he’s happy       what seems to be a smile on his face
as the wind blows through his fur for the first time

I catch him seconds               before he runs into the road
           & drag him backwards

                                once I return him to his prison
he kicks                     causing the other bulls to do the same

it occurs to me that he could really hurt
           me with his hooves     but he doesn’t     he’s playing

there’s a high death rate before the male calves are sold
I have to make sure they eat              even if they resist

my uncle hopes that my “big heart”
                                 will give them the will to live


Hours later the farm boys carry a newborn calf
barely an hour old       by the legs & toss him

into a filthy wagon                  “hey Snow White
                                 here’s another”

back in the barn I try to console the new calf
name him Bocephus after Hank          but without his mother

                                          but he’s shaking petrified
trembling       I hold him to my chest like a child

           his grief is so deep I can feel it   glacial    nothing will ever
absolve me of this       I know           I have no illusions

on my lunch break                 when I stretch
my arms my bones alight

& wander         agents of destruction catch
on anything alive & suck the water out


Today Barnabas          the strongest biggest only bull
    seems to glare        he’s caged alone inside of an electric fence

I want to ask him                  are your thoughts rhythmical
horizontal        logical            do you feel?     do you feel Death

as a starling in your chest?                           may I touch your eyelids?
nesting in a pile of hay                     I dream of a purple octopus

in a black sea             the sea is full of constellations           each star
           is a spot on the back of a huge white bull

Wednesday, July 15, 2020