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Two-Headed Calf Poem Meaning: Here’s What You Need to Know

Jackie Pearce

Anyone who has wondered about two-headed calf poem meaning has come to the right article.

It is one of those poems that has gone around the Internet multiple times and one of my absolute favorites. When it comes to poetry, there are many types that can have a lasting impact or will have a different meaning depending on who is reading the poem.

Wondering About the Two-Headed Calf Poem Meaning? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Two-Headed Calf Poem from Laura Gilpin is one of those poems.

As we explore this poem today, you might feel certain kinds of ways about it, or you might not feel anything. You might also draw out your own meanings that I do not even cover in this article. Sometimes, that is the beauty of artforms like poetry.

stock photo of a page of poetry shaped like a heart to illustrate the authors appreciation for Two-Headed Calf Poem meaning

Why Poetry Matters

Poetry is written magic. It can add depth and flavor to life that would not exist otherwise.

In a world of content creation and only writing for businesses, it is a breath of fresh air to come across a great poem that can change how you see or feel about the world around you.

Whether you’re navigating the rollercoaster of love, grappling with the messy bits of life, or just trying to make sense of the chaos in your head, poetry is a way to make sense of it all or feel less alone with your own situation.

In a world flooded with information, poetry is that cozy corner where you can slow down, breathe, and feel something real. It’s the rebel in the literary world, saying things in a way prose never could.

So, why is poetry important? Because it’s the heartbeat of expression, the soul of language, and the friend who gets you when words alone fall short.

Some poems are short and some are long, which does not matter when it comes to how much of an impact it can have.

The poem we are going to explore today is a short one, with it only being a few lines long. However, it has gone around the world and continues to be a popular poem to this day, for many reasons.

The Two-Headed Calf Poem by Laura Gilpin

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

Laura Gilpin

Coming Across the Two-Headed Calf Poem

One night, doom scrolling on Twitter at the weird hours of the morning, I came across this poem.

Maybe it was the late-night exhaustion, maybe it was my dear love of animals, maybe it was how the poem was written—either way, the poem hit me in the emotions and it started to make me cry on on the spot.

I could not even think about the poem for a few days without getting misty-eyed. It just seemed to have caught me at the right moment and quickly embedded in my memory.

Good poetry has that type of impact, which is why it is such a beautiful art form that should always stick around.

What is the Two-Headed Calf Poem?

Poetry has long been a medium through which artists express complex emotions, ideas, and societal critiques. One such famous piece is Laura Gilpin’s Two-Headed Calf.

Published in 1977 in her award-winning poetry book, The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe, this poem invites readers to delve into the profound depths of its verses, grappling with themes of identity, acceptance, animal-rights concerns, and the inevitability of change.

Whether she meant to or not, this became one of the poems she is most remembered by.

Here’s the Two-Headed Calf Poem Meaning

In its most literal meaning, it is about a two-headed calf that will die by the morning.

Most two-headed calves live for a couple of hours, with the longest being 40 days. So, needless to say, it is not a very long life to live.

However, if you want to dive into the meaning of the poem, it can cover many different types of ideas and topics.

Understanding the Imagery

The poem begins with the striking image of a two-headed calf, immediately capturing the reader’s attention. This unusual creature serves as a metaphor, a symbolic representation of uniqueness and difference.

The two heads, distinct yet connected, mirror the duality inherent in human nature and relationships.

Gilpin prompts us to ponder the acceptance of these differences, encouraging a deeper exploration of diversity.

Metaphor for Identity

As the poem unfolds, it becomes apparent that the two-headed calf is not merely a biological oddity but a metaphor for the multifaceted nature of human identity.

Each head represents a facet of the self, suggesting the complexity inherent in our personalities.

Gilpin challenges the reader to embrace and appreciate the diverse aspects that make an individual whole.

The Passage of Time

Embedded within the verses is a subtle meditation on the passage of time and the inevitability of change.

The poem’s setting evokes a sense of transience, as the calf’s unique existence is situated within the broader context of life’s fleeting moments.

Acceptance and Resilience

Two-Headed Calf encourages readers to reflect on the concept of acceptance. In a world that often prizes conformity, the poem advocates for embracing diversity and acknowledging the beauty in our differences.

The calf, despite its genetic deformity, stands as a symbol of resilience and adaptability.

Gilpin challenges us to confront our biases and preconceptions, urging society to foster a more inclusive and compassionate mindset.

Interpretative Ambiguity

One of the poem’s strengths lies in its interpretative ambiguity, allowing readers to extract personal meanings and connections. The two-headed calf becomes a canvas upon which individuals project their own experiences and perspectives.

Some may see reflections of personal struggles, while others might interpret societal commentaries on marginalized groups.

This open-endedness contributes to the poem’s enduring relevance and its ability to resonate across diverse audiences.

Life is Short

Another type of meaning from the poem includes an idea around how short life is and how you should appreciate it. The two-headed calf gets to enjoy his short life with his mother, where he sees twice as many stars as the other calves and gets to take in the extra beauty, for as long as he is around.

Takeaways from the Poem

Two-Headed Calf is a timeless exploration of identity, acceptance, and the fleeting nature of life. Laura Gilpin’s poetic masterpiece challenges readers to confront their perceptions of self and others, encouraging a deeper understanding of the complexities that make up our lives.

As you read through the poem, it is hard to not spend some time reflecting on your own existence and how much you take for granted.

For myself, it not only gave me this reminder, but as an animal lover it ripped my heart out to imagine the short life of this poor animal and how others would view it was a “freak of nature” when there is so much beauty in this little animal and his short life.

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