headless cows

She was born on the day of Poetic Soul.

It wasn’t a national holiday but it was important.

To someone.

She was born into a family with no lines blurred and edges sometimes sharp.

Her father, a meat worker at an Abattoir, was of island decent and wore his ink markings proudly.

Someone once said that she wasn’t destined for much – that she’d probably marry and live unhappily ever after. In the same town. In the same way.

I remember the first time I ever met her, years after she’d begun her escape; she was tall and awkward whilst also certain and brave.

I liked her.

She stood behind me too close sometimes on days and nights when I was trying to be free and I remember feeling her presence without her being in view. Her energy was strong.

I surmised the depth of her being was endless and over the years, as time removed us from each other and then offered reconnection, I began to swim within her.

What an ocean, to be lost in you, like a sea changing, I understand you.

Her broad shoulders were symbolic of her nature. Strong yet aching and vulnerable.

Those shoulders carried a lot.

My mother once told me that it’s not uncommon to be common. I have always found an immense interest and connection to those that have challenged the ordinary.

You’re a lot like me.

My dad worked in an abattoir when I was young and I remember the smell, the colour and the confusion I felt on the days that he brought home animal blood in the fibre of his clothing or tinted through the sparseness of his hair.

Blood smells.

It smells of life lost. Of my fathers income. Of choice.

I felt sorry for the animals that had died and lost their heads in the metal guillotine of exact moment.

I wondered how long it took for them to change and reach my plate.

I felt guilty for the skins spread and hanging in the salt yard.

Paradoxically, I liked laying on the cow hide on my lounge room floor; I often traced it’s edges with dry fingers – running the palms of my hands across the furry softness – in opposite direction before flattening it again.

It helps to know things are facing the right way.

There was a Saturday morning once, when the air was filled with freshly cut summer lawn and the windows were open, when I dared to cover myself completely in a cow hide. I was crouched on the hard wood floor of our modest home – kneeling and allowing my head to droop. I tried to imagine what it was like to be a cow. I was seven years old.

My thoughts turned to the abattoir.

I don’t eat much meat these days. As an adult with no father to judge, I cannot hold a limb, bone or fleshy animal cut in my hand without thinking about life. About death.

When I chew meat, it often plays around in my mouth to a tune of disgust. Like an unsettling melody. The tune of death.

I spit it out and promise myself I will never eat it again.

I often fail.

There are ways to hide the taste of death.

We can coat it in spice or words or excuses.

The chain of life.

I am able to justify myself and the meat and you and her and the way in which we’re all so quick to judge.

What is right. What is wrong.

This song is old.

This coat is new.

This skin is best.

I’m pleased I’ve got you.

One day, we’ll all fall, like headless cows, blood leaving us.

I wonder what we’ll think about as we trundle up the ramp toward wherever it is. A place where friendships and guillotines and forgiven fathers might be too.

I will hold your hand, if you stand beside me and I will help you.

Just like you do to me.

I can’t save the cow I’ve already eaten, nor the skin I have claimed as a coat; but I will save us.

We matter.

You are the poetic soul, these songs of meat and murder and moments passed are all essential ingredients in our life. In our eventual passing.

The taste will linger.

You are a part of my diet.

I will try not to cut you.

© ryan

headless cows

PJ Ryan

Melbourne, Australia

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