Their field empty, clogged with mud
all through these cold, sodden months.
Just a small herd of big-boned cows
fattened hungrily on high summer grass.
White coats blazoned ginger. I see them still
close congregants under the sycamore.
Flick of tails in rhythmic time with busy jaws
the dizzying buzz of flies, and the tick-tick
pulse of an electric fence.

Through many years I, a vicarious butcher
let others wield the hatchet. Bravo
does not suffice to salve the conscience
of this rueful, re-formed carnivore. 

A poem from Shay’s word garden list from the prose poetry of Russell Edson

21 thoughts on “Gone

  1. First, you have set the scene marvelously. Then, the gut punch. I, too, grapple with eating meat even knowing where it comes from. I draw the line at lamb and veal (no babies!) but feel guilty every time i sit down to a steak or a pork chop. I have wondered what I would do if I had to do the deed myself. I think, “I could never do it” but if i were hungry enough that might well change. In any event, I am glad i don’t have to do the dirty work. My mind and spirit want to be vegetarians, but my tongue and stomach want meat.

    1. a scene from my daily walks mustered from that word list!
      p.s. I stopped all meat, one animal at a time, over time as the abattoir is somewhere I could never go

  2. It’s strange but it took me years to make the connection. When I did, I just couldn’t go back and I have never missed it. If my decision means just one less soul slaughtered, I’m happy. 😉
    Beautiful, my dear Laura!

    1. I thought of you when writing this but I do miss seeing the cows from that field and hope they have just been moved to, literal rather than metaphorical, pastures new

  3. I could picture the scene very vividly, and this stood out for me: “close congregants under the sycamore” Congregants seems such a great word for the way they gather. I am an almost reformed carnivore. Meat slips in occasionally, when we’re guests at another’s table or for those rare traditions that we haven’t yet dropped (my husband’s family has forever had a New Year’s tradition of pork and sauerkraut, and I think he’s superstitious about it).

    1. thank you Robin – always good to hear what strikes others
      p.s.those round-thetable traditions are an important part of the family dynamic, whatever the content!

  4. This was as nice sad but true situation write. I had a cow once, grew her from a calf for my 4-H club project. Her name was Brownie, she was a Brown Swiss. We kept her for a milk cow as she really wasn’t mine, but Dad’s.
    You field probably was taken over by urban sprawl. Ten years ago our house land was a field, perhaps cows were here. Now the rabbits are populating, alligators are closer to the drainage ditches, which border us on the south two blogs down where our street end.
    I too hate to see the little pigs, and larger ones, riding down the roads in a semi-hauler as I am sure they are going to market. Makes me want to wean off meat but I never do.

    1. on the contrary no urban sprawl here as rural and as per the first lines, the field is evidently still there but “empty, clogged with mud
      all through these cold, sodden months.”

  5. You have described that scene wonderfully Laura. It does bring much to ponder whether one is vegetarian or not. I was raised around cows and have always loved them. I wish I could say I am vegetarian but no I am not. Although I love veggies. 😁

    1. since you know cows, you understand the feelings in the poem – thank you Carrie
      p.s. mostly I dislike the vegan/vegetarian convert – I Just chose my own path and let others go theirs 🙂

  6. First, this is such an unexpected and striking take from the list. You manage to create a visual poem that is also visceral, and especially in the first section, full of a sense of the beauty and rightness of the natural world, and even how our stewardship of it can be part of the balance. Then you bring the sadness in that hatchet and make it real, our own. I especially like “close congregants under the sycamore…” Beautiful work, and wise, as well.

    1. thank you! – emerging from that list, the poem took me by surprise but it was probably languishing in the mind’s storehouse awaiting the touch paper. It needed both halves

  7. I like how you journal your path to veganism, Laura. The more some humans learn about nutrition, alternatives, compassion sustains the light side of the equation. The more some humans factory farm, outlaw undercover videos, and destroy natural areas for livestock production sustains the dark side of it.

    1. on no,not vegan – fish and dairy are the basis of my continued good health as I age! the poem was really my feeling on the absence of this small herd and all the kine they represent.
      I hesitate to take the ethics any further though 😉

  8. love your descriptions, and it has a great sound that flows though out… i could read it till the cow come home, sorta speak. personally, i am a fisherman, and i eat what i catch ( i try to stay away from red meat) but even killing a fish is kind of hard to do, i find that (sady) i have more respect for wild critters then i do for most humans. again, enjoyed your poem

    1. thank you for all your feedback not least the sound as that is something I too value
      p.s. I admit to leaving others to catch my fish quota and like you, am fonder of wild creatures

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