“Cruelest of All Are the Gods Who Never Frown” by Michael Meyerhofer

Photograph by Aparna Pathak

Image: “Goats” by Aparna Pathak. “Cruelest of All Are the Gods Who Never Frown” was written by Michael Meyerhofer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2015, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF)


Michael Meyerhofer


I am tired of goats walking on ledges—
how calmly they disregard their own peril,
how even those nubby little horns
seem less like swirls of keratin
than middle fingers poised above faces
that have evolved into wide, permanent grins.
Maybe it’s our ancestors’ fault
for wanting smiles on their milk cartons
instead of missing children.
Did you know that goats sometimes
get their heads stuck in fences and have to wait
until a farmer comes by to free them?
It’s the horns. To remove them
is called disbudding. It takes a tool
like an Inquisitor’s pliers, castration bands
that resemble swollen wedding rings,
and a big glass of water to soak them in.

from Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2015
Editor’s Choice Winner


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on his selection: “Part of the fun in making this selection after the artist’s choice is highlighting a poem that’s very different from the other winner. While this month’s image filled many poets with either anxiety or awe, no one but Michael Meyerhofer responded this way—with disdain. Coupled with a voice as sure-footed as these goats on the ledge themselves, the effect is transformative—what were once faces of casual confidence suddenly become smug and menacing. That’s no easy feat, and makes for a truly memorable poem.”

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