Activists + > Literature > Poetry
The Slaughter-House

by Alfred Hayes (1911- )

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 hung here, whose nostrils bleed, whose life runs out from eye and ear.

Immortal Poems of the English Language (Williams)

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,