The Slaughter-House
by Alfred Hayes

Under the big 500-watted lamps,
in the huge sawdusted government inspected slaughter-house,
head down from hooks and clamps,
run on trolleys over troughs,
the animals die.

Whatever terror their dull intelligences feel
or what agony distorts their most protruding eyes
the incommunicable narrow skulls conceal.

Across the sawdusted floor,
ignorant as children,
they see the butcher's slow methodical approach
in the bloodied apron, leather cap above, thick square shoes below,
struggling to comprehend this unique vision upside down,
and then approximate a human scream
as from the throat slit like a letter
the blood empties, and the windpipe, like a blown valve,
spurts steam.

But I, sickened equally with the ox and lamb,
misread my fate,
mistake the butcher's love
who kills me for the meat I am
to feed a hungry multitude beyond the sliding doors.
I, too, misjudge the real purpose of this huge shed I'm herded in:
not for my love or lovely wool am I here,
but to make some world a meal.

See, how on the unsubstantial air
I kick, bleating my private woe,
as upside down my rolling sight somersaults,
and frantically I try to set my world upright;
too late learning why I'm hunge here,
whose nostrils bleed,
whose life runs out from eye to ear.


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