State fair evening, blurred

One Poem by Samantha Leigh Futhey

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To the Boys and Girls Sleeping Beside Their Show Cows at the Iowa State Fair

Like you, I wish for assurance, the steadiness
of a cow’s stomach rising and falling
like a balloon through hay dust, lifting

toward barn rafters, drifting gently
back down. A confidence in the logic
of ripening fruit, that the sun will always

sweeten peaches to their fall. Around you
Iowa showcases optimistic futures,
Round-Up ready, GMO seeds their prize steer.

It’s hard to promise so much, children.
If first place winners live longer, then
how much longer? And the runners-up?

When the time comes, will your fathers
sell off your futures for steaks or
shoot them in the head behind the barn?

I wish my father held the rifle to my future’s
head, gave her an ultimatum. Instead,
he let the skinny heifer, yellow as dawn’s haze,

wander through gaps in the fence. I tracked
her progress in rain-burdened grass, her hoof prints
dissolving in the woods. Children,

rest your thumbs on the cow’s neck—push
against the pulse. So fragile, like the blonde hair
lank on your foreheads, your bodies breathing

in time with your animals. How long before
your corn cobs file in rows for judgment?
Who holds the knife and scorecard meant for you?




Samantha Leigh FutheySamantha Leigh Futhey holds an MFA from the Creative Writing and Environment program at Iowa State University. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review, among others.

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