“Labor” by Annie Mountcastle

Annie Mountcastle


We pull the skin off Jeremiah
as he hangs upside down
from the tractor. His mother
paces, stomps her feet, calls out
to him from the other side
of the barn wall, but he is dead
already, blood spilling across
new snow. Her child is one year
old, little steer horns poking
through his furry temple.
The great-grandmother whose
farm we’re visiting can’t
afford to feed all the animals
this winter. She keeps the mother,
kills the son. Save the tongue,
she says. We’ll save everything
we can. It’s so cold, and the work
is hard before us. We carve
through the carcass, and still
the pieces are almost unbearable.
On three we bend and lift, gloved
hands against bone, to make
our way down the cellar steps
while the white Scottie laps up
the loss, body-deep in blood,
matted coat stained, eyes
happy and alive.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets

[download audio]

Rattle Logo