Rural life is, like some farmers,

Nasty, brutish and short.

Red in tooth and claw

Is what nature is.

Scattered across

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.

No bother.

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.

School House,

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.


By family.


By friends,


By documents,

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

And reads

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

Of money

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

Or explained,

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.

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