Rural life is, like some farmers,
Nasty, brutish and short.
Red in tooth and claw
Is what nature is.
The vasty fields,
Dead lambs and sheep
Are nibbled and gnawed
By crows and worms and silphidae.
These carrion lovers are blameless,
Driven by need
And their nature,
But how did the sheep first come to die?
Not the fox.
Was it disease, exposure lack of feed?
Whatever, the farmers’ unawareness seems a sin,
Unawareness of the sanctity of life.
These sentient beasts are a commodity to skin,
Dismember and freeze. No matter if they die without a knife
There will be more to come on the production line.
Sheep, pigs, geese, ducks, chickens and kine
Are all grist to the EU subsidy mill,
Entries bent to an accountant’s skill.
Two rascally lambs frequently escape together
And come through our garden hedge.
More problem when the garden is crammed
Like a commuter train, jointed and jammed
With big sheep who trample and chew,
An ovine plague of rams and ewes
With staunch purpose. Shouting and waving a cane,
Like Betsy Trotwood, I chase them away again.
A scruffy crowd gathers
At the far end of the acre every day.
Skinny and horned,
They wheeze, cough and choke.
They sit and stare
And chew the fat and the hay
As if they are down the pub
For a pint and a smoke.
Mary had a little lamb.
Mary, the farmer’s daughter
Loved that little lamb.
I asked her what happened
To the lovely little lamb.
“We ate it.”
Gates and boundaries
Are notional in the Barony of Barrymore,
In the County of Cork.
Along the lanes
Cows roam free like the sacred beasts
Of India. Useless to complain.
“Ah, they’re desperate cunts all right”,
Is all the farmer says.
We promise the cows that,
Come what may, we at least,
Will not eat them.
Their soft intelligent eyes
Fix us with a gaze.
“Small comfort to us”, they must think.
In the Black Museum at New Scotland Yard
I saw the very gas oven and hobs
Where Nielsen in total disregard
Of normal culinary thingamabobs
Boiled up his victims’ heads in a stockpot
After ramming the remains of the remains
Of those he had garrotted
Down the inadequate drains.
After a repast of succulent roast lamb
The overflowing sink drenched my sock
In greasy water. Trying to locate the jam,
I unscrewed the U-bend
And got quite a shock
As slimy lumps of white lamb lard
Slithered down my neck,
Cold and hard.
My old alma mater is now mostly car park.
Rickety death trap in the sixties,
Surprisingly, still shakily stands,
I walk through the empty site my feet treading
What was once the chemistry lab
Where I sweated cold in ignorant panic.
This is a short cut to the park
And Spa Road, past the corner shop
Where we bought ice cream
And idled away summer lunch breaks.
Another rickety old house, boarded up,
No longer in use. A literal death trap.
In a street named for the butcher of the Irish.
Number 25 Cromwell Street.
The local police often dropped in
For a drink and a laugh with Fred,
A good old boy from the forest of Dean,
Or to pleasure themselves with Rosemary.
Or with the waifs?
Like lambs to the slaughter.
Sentient beings. Anonymous.
Free of identity,
Used for pleasure,
Butchered for convenience,
The “purveyor of fine meats”
Is “pleased to meet you,
And has meat to please you”.
An ultra-violet insect repeller hums
And gives out a purple glow
Like an undertaker’s neon sign.
A bluebottle settles
With a cyclorrhaphous
Languor on a lamb carcass.
Among dripping cadavers of cows
And smaller pieces of mutilated animals.
The butcher tuts and whistles
Through the gap in his teeth
Turns pages of his news paper
With a hand missing a finger or two
Of carnage and mayhem in Ireland.
A literal shambles
Of children and pregnant women.
At the beef stall in Badulla market
Huge screeching crows make skidding
Scraping landings on the rusty,
Lacy corrugated iron roof,
Clattering, shrieking, swooping,
Scooping up bloody scraps of offal.
The butchers unload the slaughterhouse
Van using huge bovine ribcages
To carry the other cuts.
People hand over small amounts
For small amounts
Of unrecognisable body parts.
No part of a cow is too trivial
To be sold and cooked and eaten.
Hairy matter that cannot be named
Hangs in folds and pleats and sheets
Like curtains in a horror house.
Disembodied ankles and hooves
Are lined up in neat rows
Like shoes outside a hotel room door.
Bad tempered live chickens strut
About on strings, necks twitching,
Unaware that they
Are comestible commodities.
A man stands calm like a statue
With a live chicken under each arm.
Feral cats forage among the giblets and plastic bags.
The Tamil Tigers blew up a bus
Full of schoolchildren.
Those who escaped from the bus were shot.
Now the war is over,
The bombs are silent
But a vanload of children
Exploded in meat and blood
Because one driver
In this market economy
Cut his fares.