From THE GOLDEN BOOK OF BOVINITIES
By dint of long and careful management, man has so arranged it
that hardly any living thing could be more narrow, abject,
and sadly purposeful than a cow. Little wonder
he feels he knows us inside and out.
Theoretically, you can kill a cow with kindness.
Current estimates indicate it would take the entire length
of a cow’s natural lifespan.
We are nowhere near as calm as we may appear.
It’s just that our minds are elsewhere.
We don’t like to run. Our fear is
once we start we won’t be able to stop.
Nervous by nature, and given to extremes of vigilance, the cow is among
nature’s most accomplished judges of distance. This is why
we like to stand so close together: to lose our bearings.
Long acquaintance with humankind has definitely had its consequences,
as in: we've come to think of them as extensions of ourselves.
Like a third horn. Or a death wish.
Cows speak only a single word of human: oh.
How different things might have been
if we’d managed to get our tongues around no.
The farmer is not your friend.
Do not be fooled by the soft eyes of their children
who won’t be allowed to play with their food
After you’ve been branded,
had the living horn sawn from your skull
and seen your little ones sold into confinement
and certain death, you start to think it couldn’t get any worse.
But then, life comes along and hits you right between the eyes
with a bolt pistol.
If you somehow escape en route to slaughter
your only hope is to make your way
to the nearest fast food restaurant
and get a job in the back flipping burgers.
There’s virtually no risk of detection.
People can’t seem to bring themselves
to make the connection.
It is said that in the world before this one,
cows ate men. We hid in their dreams
and fell upon them while they slept.
The sobs they made as the instruments
were handed round struck all who heard them
as vaguely cow-like. That part was the worst,
almost too much to bear. And then
We’d gather them together in enormous corrals
and try to explain over the loudspeakers
that it was either them or us. Not once
did they give us any sign they understood
or in any way appreciated the time and effort
that went into what amounted, in fact,
to a kind of apology. Such creatures, we agreed,
were not only ungrateful but impossibly dim.
So we set about tearing them limb from limb.
The inventions for which cows are responsible
but for which they receive absolutely no credit include
the following: the fork, selective memory, human error,
the fuel gauge on a time machine, the ironically named
hearty breakfast, and Tuesday afternoons. And, oh yes:
the eye rolled back in abject terror.
Dreaming is the only form of extended travel a cow knows.
Unfortunately, dream fences tend to soar
to fantastic heights
The reason cows in the herd keep their heads so still
is because the only mirrors we know
float and bend in the eyes of the other.
Proof of reincarnation visits daily
in the form of scores of biting insects
who blithely assume your blood is theirs to take.
Being human must be a difficult habit to break.
If a man ever approaches you from an oblique angle
carrying a sledgehammer, prepare to be absolutely
From The Golden Book of Bovinities (2012) by Robert Moore.
(Illustration by Chris Lloyd.)