Two Headed Calf Poem By Laura Gilpin Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


‘Two Headed Calf’ is a poem written by Laura Gilpin. It revolves around the complexity and the duality of human nature in comparison to a two headed calf.

About the Poet:

Laura Gilpin (1950-2007) was a prominent American poet. Interestingly, she was also a nurse and an advocate for hospital reform. Famous works of his include ‘The Hocus Pocus of the Universe’, ‘The Weight of a Soul’, and ‘The Book of Human Kindness’. 

Stanza 1:

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

The poem begins with how the farm boys would find the corpse of the ‘freak of nature’, referring to the two headed calf, the next day. This is ironic because the two headed calf was very much a part of nature and no freak, his short span of life notwithstanding.

The poem is almost mechanical when stating that they would wrap the body of the calf in a newspaper and give him away to the newspaper, shedding light on the indifference of humans in the face of nature.

Stanza 2:

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.

In contrast to the bleak image portrayed in the first stanza, the second stanza paints a beautiful picture. Despite its imminent death the next day, the two headed calf rejoiced at the fact that he was alive that day.

He took pleasure in the company of his mother on a “perfect/summer evening’ and soaked in the view of the ‘moon rising over/the orchard’ and the ‘wind in the grass’. He takes in the beauty of the sky- to him, the stars seemed twice the number they usually were. 


This is a beautiful, thought-provoking poem. Despite the short life everyone possesses, they must learn to make the most of it and cherish every moment of it while they still can.