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"I Go to Work" • Kool Moe Dee (by Mitchell Nobis)

The mercury lights buzz and orb

the night in yellow. The barns

groan, hundreds of cows chewing and

shitting and sleeping and bellowing

and humping. Not a lot of people know

the cows hump each other. They know about

the mooing. They probably don’t realize

how loud and how constant it is,

but they know about it.

I’m the “outside guy” on the shift.

It’s 2:13 a.m. Up early, not late.

Started at 1:00 Saturday night.

Or Sunday morning? The weird hours.

The nowhere hours.

It’s silent everywhere except here.

The outside guy moves cows

from barn to parlor and back,

helps milk them in the parlor,

then moves them back.

He literally scrapes shit.

After I get the group to the

holding pen to wait their turn

in the parlor, I hop in the skid loader

and use the rubber half-tire attachment

to push manure down the now-empty

alleys to the manure pit–

a swimming pool for the dead.

I do this over and over,

push rivers of cowshit.

I daydream about the senior girls

driving out to the farm late after a party

because one of them needs to confess

her hots for me. We’d make out in a

skid loader. But the outside guy doesn’t

make moves on Kelly or Jenny or Katie.

An hour later, I move another group, and I escape the lights. There are these brief moments in the alley between barns where the world is darkness and stars. I disappear for the lifetime of a few seconds in the stars every twenty yards or so as I move a hundred cows along the alley. Number 1180 unleashes a few gallons of piss that waterfall, golden, in the night air. The stars shimmer in the steam.

Most everything is loud out here. The skid loader.

The incessant engine room pumping the parlor.

The cows. The classic rock radio inside the milking parlor.

I wish they played hip hop instead of Warrant, but

there are maybe a dozen rap fans in Clinton County.

My brother and I are two of them, and

I make up lyrics and rap to an audience of cows.

Hundreds of cows. I rap about the cute girls.

I rhyme about basketball. I spit sleepy fire

at the stars. Only the cows ever hear it.

Only the cows ever will.

I hurry inside to help milk the D Group.

I get kicked by a cow while that damn

Def Leppard song plays again.

My game plan is to keep it at a steady pace.

No reason to rush, it ain't no race. Except it is

because everything’s always moving.

B Group in, D Group out. So instead it’s

start the race, I'm coming in first.

Move group. Scrape manure. Milk cows.

Move group. Scrape manure. Milk cows.

Move. Manure. Milk. Move. Manure. Milk.





And soon the sun is up. Soon the stars are invisible. Soon the world glows in greens and blues again. Soon the flowers open & heliotrope to the sky. Soon I spray shit off my rubber boots. Soon I walk home and dump my work clothes in the bin outside the door. Soon I shower the shit off me. Soon I click on the radio in my room & flip it to tape deck, hit play. Soon I’m asleep. Soon it will all be moving again. Soon it will move.

Mitchell Nobis is a writer and K-12 teacher in Metro Detroit. He grew up on a dairy farm and turned 16 in 1989, the best rap year ever in his oldhead farmboy opinion. His poetry has been nominated for things and has appeared in many great publications. He facilitates Teachers as Poets for the National Writing Project, hosts the Wednesday Night Sessions reading series, and co-founded NAWP. Find him at @MitchNobis (various platforms) & He hasn't worked on the farm in a long time. But seriously, 1989? Kool Moe, De La Soul, Do the Right Thing soundtrack, Beasties' Paul's Boutique, LL's follow-up, pop charts with Young MC and Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock? Heavy D? HEAVY D & THE BOYZ?! Come on, it's 1989, buddy.


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