The Poet Spiel

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 it’s 4:30 a.m. 
i’m sliding milker cups 
onto greta’s teats
i try not to swallow 
as she slaps her shit-loaded tail
into my mouth
i’d prefer french toast for breakfast
but that’s five hours away
greta’s the meanest jersey cow
i’ve ever handled
she kicks my wristbones
then kicks her cups off
just to land them in her load
it doesn’t matter 
how recently 
i was a big shot 
beverly hills designer 
i’ve chosen to end up 
with a spring-loaded stool 
strapped to my hips
machine-milking 125 cows 
shoveling shit so often 
i pretend 
it doesn’t stink
or it stinks 
and i can live with it
or better yet
i’ve learned to love 
its perfume

yesterday i read 
my old boss’s obituary
recalling that day 
greta’d busted my nose
with one of those bitch-cow kicks
and i walked out
of his dairy 
for the last time
though he championed that cow
for his generations of breeding
toward perfect jersey confirmation
i offered him
the price of her weight
per pound of ground meat 
so he said he’d milk her  
if he had to
no champion cow of his
would behave that way
i packed my stuff
and moved on to manage 
a less dangerous herd
of longhorn cattle
i’d seen him not so long ago at walmart
he was kinda lopsided 
i asked whatever happened to greta
he ducked his head then smirked
said that god damn cow 
busted his left humerus
he said for a whopping ten grand
he’d dumped her 
on a saudi arabian prince 
who was breeding 
a model herd of jerseys 


Aunt Kitty slams me up against the wall
Presses her great blimp boobs into me
Warns me not to speak at his service
Says she saw somebody do it 
   at somebody else’s funeral
   and it was so awful

Look — I was born first son to him
Looked up to him
Loved him
Came to hate him
Distanced myself from him
Came back to respect him

    and in the end
   loved him for who he was
Now he’s dead
I want to stand up 
   in front of his friends 
Talk about him

Kitty’s scared my feelings might show
   (God forbid I should have feelings)
Kitty’s scared my feelings might prompt
   others to feel their feelings
   (God forbid they should have feelings)
   in front of others

I slam her (and her boobs) back against the wall
Make not one peep
Divorce myself from her
I enjoy speaking at my father’s service
Enjoy feeling my feelings
Enjoy feeling other’s feel their feelings

I receive word of Aunt Kitty’s death
            Distance myself 
Have no feelings
Nothing to say                  
A lifetime of mental illness and decades of psychotherapy provide rich material for Spiel to work with. At age 74, queer and confounded by loss associated with vascular dementia, he struggles to keep his lips above desolation. Internationally published as The Poet Spiel, Spiel’s most recent book is: “Dirty Sheets: 28 stories of passion, pathos and payback” published by Rain Mountain Press. He has published more than a dozen books. Learn more about his body of short stories, poetry, spoken word and his lifelong career as a visual artist at