Featured Poem: “Butter Cow,” by Rustin Larson

Butter cow sculptor Sarah Pratt at the 2006 Iowa State Fair. (photo courtesy of Iowa State Fair)


Emotions. Fear is a valid and constructive one, as good as any.

It’s like trying to find a good street-level parking spot

on Friday night. If three passes around the block

don’t do it, then maybe a visit to another town

is in order. Happiness is overrated anyway.


For example, everyone wanted to see the butter cow,

so we hopped in the Plymouth and drove to the fairgrounds.

The night howled with freaks, double-decker Ferris wheels

and unwed mothers biting bouffants of cotton candy.

Stock cars splintered on the track in front of the grandstand.

Flaming tires ejected and spun and whistled like girandolas.

There were decapitations and severed eyeballs

and nervous breakdowns. We were all going to see the butter cow.


In its refrigerated display case, it stood mooing,

all its flesh and blood and bones made of butter,

chilled to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A woman stood to slap

more cholesterol on its voice, and she stood there

shivering in a red and white maple-leaf sweater

she bought while on vacation in Calgary in 1965. Moo!

More butter! It made us crave popcorn and late nights

hypnotized by the black and white television swamp thing.

It made us want to ski behind the Belvedere while wearing silver blades.


Mostly, the butter cow made me crave revolution,

even though I was six and relied on a steady allowance

of quarters I squirreled away in a plastic Baba Looey.

I feared the screaming matches between my parents,

and I hid in the family’s bomb shelter and ate the emergency

Frosted Flakes they stored there. I prayed to the butter cow,

even though the Reverend Huhok said it was wrong.

I prayed to the butter cow and then danced on the mown

summer night with my sparkler machine guns.