POETRY: The Lowing of the Stars at Night by Holly Day

The story goes that Cain was too selfish to sacrifice one of his oxen
and that was why he offered crops instead, built a pyre of apples and wheat sheaves
pumpkins and ears of corn. Or maybe it was some other vegetable or fruit unknown to us
cultivated out of existence due to its phallic shape or unpleasant smell.

Perhaps closer to the truth is that Cain couldn’t choose which oxen he could let go
having raised the lumbering brutes
from tiny, red-haired calves that gamboled at his approach
and followed him through his morning chores, to these mild-mannered oxen
too willing to put their neck in a yoke and pull a plow through the sunbaked earth.

Perhaps it was too much like the sacrifice faced
by children in 1970s Disney movies
who were tricked into offering their beloved dogs up for sale
or hand-raising a goose or a duck or a goat for their landlord’s Christmas dinner
all because their parents had mismanaged the household finances somehow
burdening their children with a debt they were far too gentle, too human to pay.

Holly Day’s writing has recently appeared in Analog SF, The Hong Kong Review, and Appalachian Journal. She spends an inordinate amount of time following wild animals around her backyard, trying to get them to talk to her.