Calves

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Calves

The little cows, their faces white as Noh
masks, their cut-out eyes say ‘oh” when they see
me, their twigged legs skedaddling as if blown–
the calves– with muzzles clean as milk should be,
as tremulous as milk blued by a pail
in a morning when the moon still shines
like an 8 ball in sky’s corner. Do not fail
them–the little calves who emit no whines
that corporations are people, my friends,
who, like chickens bred for cage-bottomed breasts,
topple-heavy, do not understand how ends
justify means, the logic that infests
so many bottom lines that it gets lost–
as if we could eat cruelty, without cost.

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Here’s very much a draft poem, another sonnet for With Real Toads, Helen Dehner’s prompt re talking to animals. I think this is only my 29th for National Poetry Month– not sure, so one more to go?

The little calves above have, I think, quite a nice life; the poem is really about factory farming, all too prevalent in the U.S.

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15 Comments on “Calves”


  1. the logic that infests
    so many bottom lines that it gets lost–
    as if we could eat cruelty, without cost…

    What wise and aching lines these are to take with me through the day. I never see farm animals without feeling a pang, knowing their ultimate purpose is for food. I border on hypocrisy being a meat-eating animal-lover, but I draw the line at exotic meat and anything that has been hunted and shot to death. Your description of the calves is remarkable, such clever use of colour and motif of moon and milk.

  2. brian miller Says:

    oy nice bit of social commentary blended in there k
    do ends justify the means….well it seems it is our philosophy most days, but that dismisses the peripheral damage….love the imagery on the pail and milk and moon…

  3. Helen Says:

    Lulling me into a bucolic state of pastoral bliss then WHAM hitting me with a bit of stark reality ~~ it’s early where I live 😉 and now I am wide awake!


  4. A topic I consider often, loving animals as I do, and as my daughters and grandkids are raw vegans………such a powerful line: “as if we could eat cruelty without cost.” Exactly.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hi Sherry–I didn’t truly mean to seem to push veganism, just anti-factory farming. Honestly–the poem kind of got away from me. Hope all well with you. k.

  5. CC Champagne Says:

    Yes, I know this is supposed to be a terrible story about how we treat animals poorly (and we do), but all I can think of is how, in a childhood before I became afraid of cows (!!!) calves sucked at my hands… Beautiful, and very thought provoking!

  6. Mama Zen Says:

    This is beautiful, sharp work, k. Factory farming is an atrocity, and I can think of no legal fallacy that has caused more damage than the corporation as person nonsense.


  7. It is appalling what is done to animals on “factory” farms. What kind of brain does it take to give corporations person status? Greed….Such a wonderfully written piece!

  8. hedgewitch Says:

    This reminds me of the moment Paul McCartney described once, where he and his then wife Linda looked out at some sheep grazing with their lambs and felt that same sort of kinship, regardless of number of legs or brain cells(so often misused anyway) and realized they could no more eat them than their dogs. It’s a leap of faith I’d like to make myself, but all I have done so far is to give up all products tested on animals and try to look for the most humane choices offered my carnivorous palate. A fine poem, clear and ringing, k, without preaching or exaggerating, simply stating the sordid truth.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I’m vegetarian but would never push it on others–it’s only the mechanized mean farming I am getting at here–and really it was the sonnet form taking over, as it does. k.

  9. Susan Says:

    I love a sonnet! The cost is high starting with captivity. These are outdoors, but constrained in the lines of your sonnet there is no sense of freedom–they have Noh masks, faces as white as milk should be–they are staged and seen mainly as products. The cost is high to them and to us.

  10. janehewey Says:

    deeply convincing, though you clearly are not on a podium here. I love the whites, their faces, I also love a good sonnet when I don’t know it’s a sonnet. cage-bottomed breasts… ugg, what a vivid depiction.

  11. grapeling Says:

    k, you’ve been a treasure to me – that past month, it was always good to see you visit, and to drop by here. your drafts are stronger than most people’s finals, and as noted, that final line is stunning. I no longer eat mammals but do grind my teeth into chicken and fish, though am leaning more and more into your camp (buying organic whenever possible, flesh or plant). the best soapboxes are those that don’t feel that way – like this. CAFO is an abomination ~


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