I’m all read up on Frans de Waal and Temple Grandin, long since well-convinced of animal consciousness. Herein I contend their ontologies too are more complicated than we give due for. Nature simplifies, yes, but does not flatten.
Out on the ranch stock is male—possibly fixed—or female. Cattle? Bulls and cows, castrated steers. Banded/cut buck goats are wethers and their ladies you know as does. Stallion loses its testes and turns a gelding, who can then no longer mate with a mare.
(An aside: never trust a bull, I’ve been told. A ram either. Any male animal, I’ve been told, uncastrated, is a threat.)
Lo! Let us move into the gray. Come, pull up a mound of bare earth and let me make tale of Buddy, a hen who decided to be a rooster, one day, among the retired Easter Eggers and a broody old Silkie. The most skittish caprine I ever had acquaintance of was a hermaphrodite—testicles, a vulva, and a shaggy soft butch body smack at the intersection of doe and buck. Happen to know a female stockdog who pees like a boy, leg cocked stoic and sunward.
Then there’s Fern. I watched Fern recast her body male in real time, with mine own two eyes I did. Had put her in a pen with the doelings sorted off for slaughter and she shook off womanhood hasty, spitting wild, flehmening to the fading moon, fur puffed and pawing like mad. The others scattered helter-skelter as she mounted them, topped them, one by one, over and over.
You icons of spectrum, gimme some! Share in your gifts, y’all who conjure T from vapor, gimme some! Share! Trade me this stale human inelasticity for the breathtaking mutability of the immanent.
Mukethe Kawinzi is a shepherd who has appeared in Obsidian, Puerto del Sol, and HOBART. She is the author of ‘saanens, nubians, one lamancha’ (Winner, 2022 Quarterly West Chapbook Contest) and ‘rut’ (2022 Ghost City Press Summer Series). She herds goats on the open range in coastal California.