“An education in electricity and green things” by Kristen Stone
Cathy is holding a kid between her knees. Its head is trapped in a special box. She is holding a hot thing which is buzzing. She is pressing it into the goat’s head. It is making a sound. It is screaming.
(The goat book reassures: it’s quick, humane, and painless. The goat could tear an eye out. Disbudding protects them from nature. Just playing is dangerous, with horns. How would you build a hay manger or a stanchion? )
Cathy presses the tip at an angle into the raw head meat. I’m sorry, sweetheart. The barn is full of smoke. The smoke smells like an airbag. Diesel and gunpowder and singed hair.
They go outside for the first time. They are three weeks old. The world brightened and grew. The world was contained by white mesh, which holds a spark harnessed by a small solar panel on the side of the barn.
Cathy says, yes children, touch it with your nose. They jump back. They cluster in the soft green middle. There are ugly red holes in their heads, where the horns would have grown. The hair is singed around the craters, which reach down to their skulls. They don’t know that they look tortured.
We teach them to drink water, holding our wet hands to their soft mouths. They suckle. (A soft ache.)
We carry them out under our arms. Two at a time they scramble.
Learn sunlight. Rumen. Learn grass. Learn to go back into the barn the same way you came out.
Kristen Stone has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology/women’s studies from Rollins and an MFA from Goddard College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Amphibi.us, the Pitkin Review, Elephant, and Autumn Sky. In addition to writing, she works as a farmer and domestic violence advocate in Gainesville, Florida. Kristen blogs about geography, writing, and the animal question at http://queeragripoetics.tumblr.com.