Harm Animals

I’m crossing a cow pasture, texting a friend
photos of a calf whose black and white
pansy-patterned face alternates between tugging
his mother’s udders and gazing up at me, motionless
with curiosity, even as the herd quivers, alarmed.
I once read a case study about a young boy
in trauma therapy who, at the close of each session,
would hide under the therapist’s chair,
cling to familiar toys, despite reassurance
that the therapist, the room, the chair, the toys
would be at the next session. To reestablish object permanence,
the boy wrote his name on a piece of paper,
asked the therapist to do the same, then tore
the paper in half, giving his name to the therapist,
keeping the therapist’s name for himself.
Psychologists claim we experience the world
we infer, not the world as it is. But what is the world?
My shadow extends into goldenrod and aster.
I slip behind a large oak. The cows regain their drowsiness.
Leaves susurrate an octave lower than yesterday
when the weather still passed for summer.
I close my eyes—the world as it is—
then open them again to text my friend.
“Farm animals” autocorrects to “harm animals.”
I follow up with: “FARM ANIMALS.”
My friend: “Lol harm animals—but that’s exactly what we are.”

Grace MacNair is a poet, teacher, and healthcare professional living in Brooklyn, NY. A 2023 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Poetry, she has received fellowships and support from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Marble House Project, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Monson Arts, the Carolyn Moore Writers House, Bread Loaf, and elsewhere. Grace’s micro-chapbook, EVEN AS THEY CURSE US, is available from Bull City Press.