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 (cagibilit.com). Find her online at ostermanpoetry.com.
Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.