All Animals Want the Same Things

By Jeanne-Marie Osterman

Featured Art: “Catpurnia” by Julie Riley

I had a sickly cat whose cure,
said the homeopath, was raw meat 
so I replaced the canned food with scraps 
from the butcher and overnight 
her gingerly eating turned feral devouring.
She’d yowl as I took the jiggling red flesh
from the fridge, pace as I cut it into pieces, 
then suck it down before I could rinse the knife. 

This so exhausted her, she’d lie on the sofa 
for hours before getting up to prey 
on the dustbunnies under my desk. 
While I was watching Shark Tank one night, 
a ball of Kleenex walked across my living room floor. 
It turned out to be a mouse 
who was carrying it to the bookcase 
where she was building a house 
behind my dog-eared copy of Balzac’s Lost Illusions

Seeing the mouse brought my cat back to full health. 
She stalked the tiny creature, crippled it 
with her jaws, sat back to watch it struggle. 
I called the building super and asked him 
to take the mouse away, signing 
the creature’s death warrant. 

My sister and her husband raise cows for the slaughter. 
Though my sister will eat them,
she refuses to go to the slaughterhouse 
when their time has come. 
I watched how they do it on YouTube. 

An operator lines the stunner up 
with the sweet spot of the cow’s brain. 
The bolt inside is captive—
held like a breath in its chamber, 
then expired with such force 
it knocks the animal unconscious. 
The bolt doesn’t penetrate. 
It recoils to be used for the next. 
And the cow lives!
The heart keeps beating,
which speeds the bleeding-out,
which is the actual slaughter.

When my husband left, it hit like a bolt. 
He’d held his infidelity in like a breath, 
then walked away, recoiled.

Jeanne-Marie Osterman is the author of Shellback (Paloma Press, 2021), and the chapbook, There’s a Hum (Finishing Line Press). A finalist for the 2018 Joy Harjo Poetry Award, Osterman lives in New York City where she is poetry editor for the literary journal Cagibi ( Find her online at

Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.

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