The cattle, screaming from the slaughter
house, can be heard
all the way down the dirt road
to the next ranch. Their deaths are handed
to them. Handless, & capable of nothing. Beyond sound, white
-tailed deer skitter in the distance.
Once, my father reached for his rifle.
Once, my mother stood at the split-rail
fence, close but far enough
from slaughter not to own it. The ranch
would be hers alone, afterward. Perhaps
I am the distance. My father always said
the head is first to be lost. The heart, first
to be eaten. The cattle, though. The sounds. Stunned
before being hung by a hind limb to ensure
a humane end. Tenderness. The abattoir
rules for each house. The poverty of logic.
A truth with no hands, & birds circling overhead.
About This Unit: Poems on Family and Finding Other Lines of Symmetry
CHELSEA DINGMAN’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her second poetry collection, Through a Small Ghost, won The Georgia Poetry Prize (University of Georgia Press, 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.