It is dark inside the cow. Space is limited; you can crouch or curl or squat on your haunches. My favorite position is fetal: chin down on my stomach, knees drawn up in a tight ball. I sleep like that most nights. Cup my head and close my eyes. I don’t really need to close them. All around me is darkness—to the left and to the right, I can see nothing. The cow is seamless. After it has eaten it is gassy, a thick blanket of mist that shimmers and smarts, clouds everything. My head grows heavy, falls into my chest, and my body, always weak and sickly, topples, exhausted, onto the methane mattress that holds me. I sleep with my knees bent, my hands tucked between my thighs. At some point, my body sprawls; my arm drops. The contact with the cow’s insides stir me and my eyelids flutter open. It is early morning. Before day starts; daybreak. I know because of the space, the air. I can breathe again. Before dawn, the cow’s body temperature drops and its belly is empty. The space expands. I unbend my spine, shake out my wrists and roll my ankles. I have about an hour of freedom before it starts again: the process of feeding. It’s endless. All day the cow grazes. It chomps and belches, farts fat flammable clouds. From inside, the cow reverberates and rolls. Each bite is a bulldozer, swallows like thunder. I block my ears and clasp my knees, try to close the cow out but it is impossible; the cow encloses me. By midday it is fat, swollen and grinding in heat. Nothing is as hot as the inside of an animal. Nothing is as empty. My throat burns, tears come to my eyes, mixing with the noxious cow fumes and my own perspiration. My head grows dizzy—a sense of falling even though I cannot fall; the cow holds me. There is no escaping it—the assault continues until evening. I have long since given up crying. I no longer beat my fists against the cow’s innards. I breathe the hot gas and feel myself slipping. Each day, I lose more of me. My body is small and wiry, muscles balled tight from crouching. I can make a fist in the pit of my belly, always so hollow, hungry from masticating grass. My teeth have turned soft from chewing slop; milk teeth. I run my tongue and try to remember the taste of solid food, of meat, steak T-bone, chuck, and short ribs. I see the pieces laid out in shiny silver trays and smell the burning charcoal of the braai. My stomach knots, hungry for the sizzle of fat and flesh thrown on the skillet so the outside is charred and the inside bloody. I take a bite and try to hold the memory in my mouth, try to make it hum and squirt but already it is fading. Nothing coagulates. Steak is indistinct; merely a sucking, a metallic recollection which teeth can no longer bite into. Liver is long gone. I have no recall, neither taste nor texture. It doesn’t matter. There is no question of eating cow now.
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You can be the hard faced titan in Timberland
boots, a bomber jacket, chained
to a corner of your choosing. You can scope
the city from the shattered windows
of high rises with inviting names:
the Gardens; the Courts; the …
You could walk along, seeing the water in its pace, a bird sitting on a rock, flying up and up, to the other side without thinking twice about customs and passport. Spreading, gliding, shitting on a picture-taker like me.
Gog, by Brandi George. Black Lawrence Press, 2015. $14, 75 pages.
Gut-wrenching and phantasmagoric, Brandi George’s first full-length poetry collection, Gog, articulates the experience of a young female growing up in an oppressive contemporary rural environment. These poems ask …3
The Loss of All Lost Things, by Amina Gautier. Elixir Press, 2016. $19, 128 pages.
An older white woman who recently lost her ailing husband to suicide stumbles into an affair with a young black male prostitute; a recent divorcee …3
Belief in story is a belief
in travel or trouble—
a newborn becoming
unmoved by his conscience,
a vocabulary collecting
reason by slow degrees.
Suppose it’s not fear
but how we spend our …
we never left home. We casted
ourselves in a domestic tableau.
A riot was born. And you
took to staring out of windows, reading
the smoke signals of flaming cars,
which told you,
and you were convinced,
that there was …
At night, I leave all the lights on in my head.
This way, I know the dead can find me.
Sometimes they toss me their worldly trinkets:
the moon, wobbly as a child’s loose tooth,
a tuning fork, a spear …
We did it so America could feel proud again. That’s what I tell myself whenever the silvery light shines through my window, going liar liar liar liar. I say, I have nothing to atone for. I say, No …5
Old dogs and a hardwood kayak.
A woman wipes her boning knives on oilstone skin.
The occasional outburst of undress.
The animal of her ankles.
Lean out toward your daughter, shutters open
A black bag wraps the night …3
Contributors: Ronald Schleifer, Elizabeth Hinds, Pamela Slate Liggett, David S. Grofs, Kate Beaird Meyers, Grant I. Holly, Tom Bowden, Robert Markley, Richard Cafestta, G. Douglas Atkins
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