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At the Butcher`s Shop

by Mark Callanan 

Posted: 14 March 2004
Word Count: 182

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Meat is meat and the block of wood,
two inches thick, is all that keeps
the knife from cleaving through the tabletop.
Thereís a pig on a hook by the window
that I swear has been eyeing me since I entered,
all two hundred pounds of him split open
and still nothing cut from the edge of his glare.
If it werenít for the hook he'd run off
madly squealing down the laneway,
past all the market stalls.

And the butcherís boy watches me as well,
his arms buried to the elbow in guts, apron soaked
with blood and his right eye dancing in its socket.
I ask for beef and edge uneasily away
from the pig as the butcher fills a bag, ties it up
and slaps the change into my palm
with an overhand chop.

Thereís something makes me wonder
as Iím walking outó
can the butcher, with all the blood on his hands
and his smock, his arms
crossed heavily against his chest,
resist the urge to see each passing animal
as two steps away from the chopping block?

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Comments by other Members

Skeetr at 07:18 on 15 March 2004  Report this post

Hello Mark -- welcome to WW.


Sorry, Mark -- I seemed to hit the 'submit' button before I finished typing. I meant to say: great poem. I read it on your website, selected from you book "Scarecrows". Impressive work.



roovacrag at 08:04 on 15 March 2004  Report this post
Hi Mark welcome to WW.
This is good, very good.
I loved the last line made me laugh.
Well written,flowed well.
Words flowed off the tongue easily and it was vivid to the reader.
Hope to read more of your work.
well done.
xx Alice

Fearless at 08:52 on 15 March 2004  Report this post
The last stanza said it all for me, and I love corrupting vegetarians. Welcome to WW


miffle at 13:35 on 15 March 2004  Report this post
Mark - loved 'still nothing cut from the edge of his glare' and the way the pig's eye is mapped on to the 'butcher boy's'.

The poem has a sinister edge to it (all those surveillance eyes, the poet's uneasiness) which 'makes me wonder' if actually although the poet's buying 'beef' he's buying int for someone else (!?) Is he actually a vegetarian (!?) - phrases like 'meat is meat' (as if he's trying to convince himself it has no connection to spirit, Life), the surveillance/ accusing eyes (is this his guilt?) and the last stanza and his wondering about the butcher make me think this.

I personally, hate, buying meat for other people and have been a vegetarian since about the age of 9. This personally feels absolutely right for me and natural.

For the record: I have nothing against someone raising animals humanely, slaughtering them on or very near where they have been brought up and then using and giving thanks for every single bit of them. What I am appalled by is the brutality of many modern farming methods (such as factory farming - many of which lead to the outbreak of diseases), the long journeys that animals have to suffer on the way to the slaughter house, the brutality of many modern slaughter methods, and the sheer greed of the industry, consumerism.

Coming back to your poem I think that if that's 'how the butcher sees each passing animal' then he is missing out big time! Never ever listened to an animal's spirit (!) - dumb smuck! They teach us a lot... Human's can be so arrogant it seems.

Oh and welcome to Write Words, Miffle ;-)

Tina at 13:50 on 15 March 2004  Report this post
Hello Mark

I see you are new to this site anyway so welcome
I had a look at your site and was interested in your wolf work as I have just been researching for a poem about Little Red Riding Hood - will post another day maybe as it has reached a stage where I don't feel like I can do much more - for now.

I liked your wolf poems very much
The subject is inspirational though isn't it?

About the meat!

I read this earlier today and it has hung about like your pig so I have come back to it!

I really like -
meat is meat - strong - great opener
right eye dancing in its socket - very visual!!!!

I wonder if you could write another ending one day where the pig does run off !!!

Great material

Tuppence at 15:53 on 06 February 2005  Report this post
i collect pigs but i don't eat them

Jellybean at 11:06 on 16 September 2018  Report this post
I just came upon this as a 'Random Read,' and liked very much.

The butcher, menacing, defensive and on the edge of possibly (and this is the scariest thing), transitioning from butcher of animals to killer of people. Is he more sensitive than we see at first glance? Is he haunted by the pig and feels fear of him? The atmosphere conveyed is dense with repressed emotion.

The pig himself feels undead and I want him to run. And then come back and slaughter the butcher.

When a poem has this much power, I give the writer all my respect.


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