Activists + > Literature > Poetry
USDA Choice

by Mel Schorin

Would you eat it if it fell on the floor, the waiter

washed it off, replaced the sauce and broccoli,

the sneezing cook wiped fingers on his apron,

took your beefsteak back from the cat?

Would you eat it if you saw the butcher baste

red dye on a dead brown muscle or read

a rumor the farmer fed them hormones

for four-gallon udders, a ton of tetracycline

to grow to market-weight faster

while your bacteria learn to resist;

if chickens swam in salmonella soup

and they rinsed the poop from the feathers?

Sure, if it tasted good.

The exception became the rule --

The farmer who spent a nickel a pound

for feed, green pastures, and vets

is out of business. An August evening�s

heat inversion, we smelled pigs dying

down at Herr�s Island, five miles away

on the Allegheny, tomorrow�s lunch.

A lake of feces swallowed the river.

Would you pay a little more for a man

to say a prayer before cutting the throat,

a little more for an open door when the hens

never walk outside, a dollar to know

it wasn't the tongue with the cancerous lung,

not the milk-cow clubbed when too weak

to walk, not the hog who squealed

when he heard his mother slaughtered?

Sure, if it tasted good.

The word for sausage is botulism. Children

need nutritious happy meals, they don't

like rice and beans. We�re not sheep,

so where do you get your protein?

Come love your neighbor who whips his dog,

dumb animal, keeps his veal calf chained

in a two-foot stall, burns beaks off hens and dips

them alive in boiling water for faster plucking,

who pours a barrel of chirping chicks

in a woodchipper, shoots ducks for fun,

electrocutes minks with a prod

in the butt not to mark the fur.

As long as we don�t have to watch.

Third-grade slaughterhouse field-trip --

Kids come home with stomachs of blood,

souvenir skin-bags, and run to the smell

of young flesh roasting on the grill.

It tastes good. You�re hungry.

You can't change the world.

--Mel Schorin

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