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Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |    

Overland magazine feature

Brendan Ryan

A Job To Do

hitting a crippled calf on the head
with the blunt end of an axe
because the calf won’t survive
past a few days, it won’t fetch
anything from the calf buyers
and I know Dad is going to check on me
this is just something I have to do
before I pick up the axe handle
I look around the paddocks
to see if anybody is watching
and could they talk me out of this-
a crippled calf between my legs
and my father’s words
I pick up the axe
remembering how my father swings it
those times I had to look away
stomping up from the drain
with an axe in his hands,
the dull thud is a blow
I know is successful
the calf’s tongue is hanging out
my heart is thumping
as if something has been added
transferred from the sudden jolt
to the calf’s head I step back
utterly alone as my father was
looking for the next job
at ten I know what it is like to kill

Brendan Ryan lives in Melbourne. Why I Am Not a Farmer was published by Five Islands Press in 2000. He is a recent recipient of an Australia Council writing grant.

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