Kelsi Vanada

Cow Sense

This family just might have more cattle photographs

than folks. Whole sleeves of them by year, clear back

to Kastor of Valley Mound, the oldest registered Angus bull

anyone ranching who now remembers can remember. 

Folders full of names like Windy Star, Ingalls Special 5, Big

Fortune. And there were the almost-pets: the docile bull

that followed Dale for scratches behind the ears. The steer

Duane dressed up. I had cattle, too: the cow with ear tag 342

laid on her calf till it was dead. At auctions later their issue

turned tuition dollars. The calves in head gates I have sprayed

with flea dip watching testicles yanked out and slashed, 

trailing long red cords. Good eye appeal ’s what Grampa says.

Like licorices sucked and socketed. If you select for just one trait

too hard, you sacrifice another. The breed’s in a good place.


Make Believe


We were what anyone would call obsessed, reenacting

that colonial crossing the family always deemed

heroic. Yes, Ingalls is my mother’s maiden name.

A Radio Flyer our covered wagon—if we were nice

we might convince my brother to pull us in it westward

through the yard. As Pa, he had a wooden gun for shooting game. 

I, always Laura—she was wildest. My sister, Baby Carrie—

I could boss her. I hated beef jerky, but it seemed authentic. 

So too our fringed vests. We stole carrots from the garden

and ate them with the dirt still crunching in our teeth.

A blue tarp for the rivers we forded—all this caught

on film. As a teen, I exchanged my gingham bonnet

for dying of dysentery in a game I played white-

knuckled. Just like those books, this tells you what I did. 


Headshot - 29 - Copy.JPG

Author Bio

Kelsi Vanada’s translation of The Eligible Age by Berta García Faet was published in 2018 by Song Bridge Press. She holds MFAs in Poetry (The Iowa Writers’ Workshop) and Literary Translation (The University of Iowa). She translates from Spanish and collaboratively from Swedish, and her poems and translations have been published most recently or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, TLR, Bennington Review, and Anomaly. Kelsi is the Program Manager of the American Literary Translators Association.