Finally, I Can Buy a Two-headed Calf

I used to love farmers’ fairs and carnivals when I was a kid. My cousins lived on a farm in Pennsylvania (sometimes a working farm, sometimes not), and I loved hanging out in the barns, roaming the fields looking quartz chunks, catching fish in the pond, but especially going to the Blue Valley Farm Showtwo headed calf at the farm show pic. There I’d look for the record-breaking bull, the tractor pull (which my cousin won one year, I think) and gorge myself on fried things.

Sometimes you see weird stuff at fairs, and one such encounter (somewhat fictionalized, I admit) I put into the poem Two-headed Calf at the Farm Show (which is in the book Necessary Mythsbuy here). Anyway, I just happened to notice, via the Facebook page of The Evolution Store, a listing for an actual two-headed calf for sale. The auction house Bonhams is offering both the full mount and an articulated skeleton.  Would someone please buy this for my birthday present? I know just the place I’d put it.

 

Two-headed Calf at the Farm Show

 

We came for sights and smells,

distractions of giant beets

and blue-ribbon goats,

but at the taxidermy tent we find

a body mounted, badly stitched and

held into a suckling pose

by wires hidden in the neck,

a calf that may or may not

have been more than we expected,

and who expects these things?

Not the calf as it entered the world

watching itself watching itself

slide out onto the sharp padding

of straw, strong hands pulling

at its legs. One heart, one spine

branching like a river

with two mouths to the sea

and for a brief moment

they both gasp, breath

struggling down a pair

of clotted throats, a god’s

joke that let the gentle eyes

open long enough to see

each other’s own lovely brown eyes

slowly close, the one heart too shocked

to bring legs up for balance

and finally those hands let go.

So now under a sun hot tent

we reach out to touch it,

holding hands but looking away,

thinking of the big coffee eyes

the moment one person knows before the other

that the fight for air is over

when one heart’s not enough

for both of us.

 

Here’s another taxidermy poem by me at Painted Bride Quarterly.

And here’s another tw0-headed calf poem, this one by Laura Gilpin (thanks to Laura Orem for the tip).

Twitter with me @Uniambic

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One thought on “Finally, I Can Buy a Two-headed Calf

  1. i really enjoyed this poem .i am the owner of an authentic 2 headed calf the history of this can b traced to pre prohibation my grandfather was given the calf as a gift from a near b y farmer it was placed in the window of his tavern and faced the river when they were serving booze at a time when it was illegal to do so

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