Poetry by Nadja Lubiw-Hazard

“I will speak of cows”

            By Nadja Lubiw-Hazard

i. Childhood

The animals call my name,
and I howl back in delight.

The kittens:
wispy white milkweed fluff,
hummingbird hearts.
Three to a handful,
clutch them close.

Summertime at grandpa’s
I learn to speak chicken:
             cry out – hawk circling,
             crow to the glorious sun,
             come! squigglers in the dirt,
             call to the chicks, hush my little peepers,
             muted whispers in the eggs.

Once, a piglet held,
sunshine lighting up his shimmering ears.
My own Wilbur.

ii. Meat 

A discovery:
a recipe for squirrel stew
in my mother’s Joy of Cooking.
People eat squirrel!
             Onion, lard, flour, water,
             salt and pepper.
A diagram shows how to skin it,
like peeling a ripe fruit.
I wonder,
where do the fairy-cup ears go?
And the little claws that clutched un-earthed treasures?

People eat squirrels,
but I must have known that already.

Christmas dinners,
pinkie fingers clutching turkey wishbones.
The crack of little bones,
like broken kitten femurs.

Crispy-bacon Sunday mornings,
eating sliced and sizzling pig.
Nibbling the bones clean
from Mama’s fried chicken.
Call to the chicks, hush hush,
your mama is gone.

iii.     Meatless

My older sister has a new boyfriend.
He has a shock of brown curls pulled back in a ponytail,
a moped,
two mutts, long-limbed and skittish,
named Marvin and India.
He stays for dinner,
refuses the roast beef.
“Is that allowed?” I ask, amazed.

Late at night I whisper into Luna’s frost-bitten ears.
She stares back at me without blinking,
her pupils tiny slits of black,
yellow irises gleaming.
             “I don’t eat you anymore.”
She rasps her tongue across her white paw,
washes her crumpled ear,
licks my baby finger.
She believes me.

iv.     Slaughterhouse

The knocker grins at us,
flexes his tattooed bicep,
raises the captive-bolt pistol,
aims it at the cow’s forehead.
A sharp crack explodes in my chest
as the bolt penetrates the brain.
My heart skips a beat,
the cow falls to the floor.

There is no air,
just the smell of the waiting cows,
their rank damp fur,
their sweet, steamy breath.

She is shackled and hoisted,
swinging a slow pendulum above me,
one front leg kicking feebly.
Her ears droop down,
her tongue hangs out.
She gags, gasps,
her brown eye rolls back,
reveals a curved sliver of white,
             a perfect crescent moon.
She blinks.
Then her body jerks forward,
and she is gone.

The sticker slits the throats.
He has blackened, black eyes,
rings of bruising,
a gun-blued heart.
A hot red waterfall of blood
cascades down his arm.

Afterwards there is a talk,
a golden-haired woman who speaks of opportunity.
The role of the veterinarian:
antemortem and postmorten inspections,
quality control and food safety,
zoonotic diseases.
She does not speak of cows.

v. Childhood, Revisited

I will feed you
the long green grasses of summer.

I will dance for you,
bare feet
stamping in the cornflowers and purple clover,
tie dyed sun-dress twirling.

I will caress you.

I will write an ode to you, to your cowness,
or perhaps a requiem for your dead:
             to your hoofed feet
             and swishing tails,
             to your udders
             and your wondrous eyelashes,
             to your plant-eating.

- Nadja Lubiw-Hazard is a writer and a veterinarian. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Guelph and a Post Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers. Her work has been published in Understorey, Room, Canthius, The Dalhousie Review, and The New Quarterly; her first novel, The Nap-Away Motel, was published by Palimpsest Press in May 2019. She is currently working on several picture books about animals, and a work of historical fiction called The Brown Dog Riots. A life-long animal-lover and long-time vegan, her writing often explores themes related to the natural world. Nadja is passionate about animal activism, and spent many years as a volunteer with Zoocheck Canada and the Jane Goodall Institute. She lives with her wife, their two daughters, a black pug, and an old orange tabby cat in Toronto. Discover more at www.nmlhazard.com

Copyright©2020 by Nadja Lubiw-Hazard. All Rights Reserved