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Poem: "Until the Cows Come Home" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Until the Cows Come Home"

This poem came from the May 3, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by aldersprig and sponsored by janetmiles.  The prompt about "the urban myth of the normal family" reminded me of all the folk tales in which some exotic being is able to pass for human, and seems perfect -- except for one flaw.  You can read more about the huldrefolk  online. The other poems in the "Monster House" series are listed on the "Serial Poetry" page of my website.


Until the Cows Come Home


The Solem family moved in
on a perfect sunny day,
taking the house across the street
with its green velvet lawn and white picket fence.

They were tall and blond and blue-eyed
with fair skin that never seemed to burn in the sun.
The wife and the daughter were beautiful;
The husband and the son were handsome.
They smiled with perfect white teeth
when we sent them a welcome basket.

They shopped in the local grocery stores.
Their children went to the same school as ours.
The parents went to PTA meetings
and attended all their children's games.
The blue lace curtains always hung straight in the windows
and the grass got mowed at the same time every Saturday.
They made friends with everyone on the block
and they fit in perfectly.

One day my wife huffed at me,
"The Solems are so normal,
they make my teeth itch.
Twice  yesterday someone said to me
that I should be more like Mrs. Solem!"

"Don't worry," said our daughter,
"they're not real."

My wife and I shared a look.
"What do you mean by that, sweetie?"
I asked carefully.

"They're huldrefolk,"
our daughter said. 
"I can see their cow tails.
Also they have 2.5 children.
They just don't take the baby out in public
because she's still hollow behind."

The next time we met them
strolling the sidewalks in our neighborhood,
I looked at them more closely.
Sure enough, peeking out from the mother's hem
was the tip of a tawny tail.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Solem," my wife murmured,
"but your petticoat is showing below your skirt."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Solem,
twitching her tail out of sight.  "I hear there's a sale
at Kiddie Kloset this weekend."
"That sounds wonderful.  We'll all go," said my wife.
"Perhaps you'll bring your baby this time?"
The two elder Solems shared a look.
"Well, she's a little young still ..." said Mrs. Solem.

"Just keep her in a baby sling,"
said our daughter.  "No one will notice. 
Nobody else around here ever notices anything. 
You'd think they were all blind."
Then she ran after the two Solem kids
as they chased each other around the shade trees.

"Your daughter is very perceptive,"
said Mr. Solem.
"She takes after her grandmother,"
my wife said with a grin.

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Current Mood: busy busy

34 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 5th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooo! I'm learning about nifty critters tonight! :D
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

New critters are fun. I like discovering them when people give me prompts I don't recognize, and I also enjoy turning people onto whatever I've found.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: May 5th, 2011 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Either I've missed a few, or it sounds like mother and grandmother have had a chat offstage ...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

They're still in contact, so presumably they talk. We know there are family visits, given that the granddaughter has seen her grandmother's kitchen and lab.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: May 5th, 2011 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
*bounce*

Love it love it love it.

And you're just running with the twists in the tail this time... "you'd think they were all blind."
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Love it love it love it. <<

Yay!

>>And you're just running with the twists in the tail this time... "you'd think they were all blind." <<

Heh ... yeah. None so blind as will not see. She may be precocious, but she's still little enough to say obnoxiously blunt things like that.
paka From: paka Date: May 5th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read this and all I could feel was sad that these magical, marvelous creatures, are stuck living in sterile manufactured America. Intentional, or is my perspective permanently warped?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

That's one facet of it. Yes, the poem does kind of make fun of the "American way" as overly ordinary and stuffy. But if you look at the series as a whole, you can see that the fey creatures -- and the humans who acknowledge them -- are banding together. That's a cool little subculture of its own, existing right alongside the ticky-tacky one. So they're living in the same location, but not quite the same frame of reality.

That's not an accident; that's an expression of my own experiences, that each person lives in their own world, some of which overlap and others really don't. I've had people come into my life who never had anything really weird happen around them, whereas weird is my everyday. Eventually I learned to issue warnings about that. Crossing the threshold into my plane of reality can be trip, in more ways than one. It intersects consensus reality, but is not synonymous with it.
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eseme From: eseme Date: May 6th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh I do love this series!

And I think having friends in the neighborhood will be good!

I am kind of alarmed by half a baby though...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> And I think having friends in the neighborhood will be good! <<

Could be fun, yes.

>> I am kind of alarmed by half a baby though... <<

Well, there are two prevailing descriptions of the huldrefolk. One is that they look human from the front, but are hollow behind; the other is that they look fully human except for having a cow's tail. So I combined the two motifs: they are hollow as babies, but the hollow closes and the tail grows in. Think of it as a preternatural fontanel.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: May 7th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
This really amuses me. And I wasn't familiar with huldrefolk, so I'm happy to learn some new folklore. Yes indeed, this would be a very interesting neighborhood to just sit and observe.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 7th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm always happy to introduce people to new concepts.

>>Yes indeed, this would be a very interesting neighborhood to just sit and observe.<<

Agreed! It is a fascinating neighborhood.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 5th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Awesome!
aubergine_pilot From: aubergine_pilot Date: September 21st, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
HULDREFOLK.

Yeah, still having that problem with the neon-pink hearts taking over my inner monologue. Just... HULDREFOLK EEEEEEEEEEEE ALMOST NOBODY WRITES ABOUT THEM THANK YOU

The 2.5 kids thing was brilliant.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 22nd, 2012 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> Yeah, still having that problem with the neon-pink hearts taking over my inner monologue. Just... HULDREFOLK EEEEEEEEEEEE ALMOST NOBODY WRITES ABOUT THEM THANK YOU <<

You can always request more in a fishbowl. I like exploring obscure motifs.

>>The 2.5 kids thing was brilliant.<<

It just popped into my head as I was writing, because there are these different descriptions of the huldrefolk, hollow behind or with a cow's tail. Preternatural gestation and development can be very different from human standard.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 21st, 2018 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just thinking of the huldrefolk again, and thinking that they would be a perfect fit in the Ravenstone storyverse. I imagined a family of them moving to Winterbloom Way and the nasty, racist, snooty rich Park family greeting them warmly, getting on famously with them, all the while the Ravenstones are watching this and trying not to burst out laughing, knowing that the Parks (who hate non-human people) were getting along well with a species of fairy folk (which they would be in the Ravenstone verse). Vedya would be unable to keep from laughing her ass off at the situation.

What's best, even if most of the Ravenstones couldn't see through their disguise, Dalia is a Sensitive and would be able to know what they were, if she Looked. Though if they had the tail thing, the Ravenstones would notice. One of the family friends is dating a kitsune, and Dalia is friends with a different kitsune.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 21st, 2018 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Go for it!

If they fit, use them. :D
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