I do not kill the kid: this,
my only concession to a nice
squeamishness. The shambles knows me,
nonetheless, in the squealing dark
before dawn: I make my choice;
parting the springing hair to finger pelts
for ticks; the scabbings of disease.

A perfect, tender kid: I pay
without dissent the named price,
seize the rope, dragging her,
skittering on the filthy stones,
while I pick careful steps toward
the slaughterer, his precise knife.
It’s quick—then all the rest is mine.

Sometimes, still, my stomach heaves
as I slide my blade under the skin
but more and more I hold a steel control;
release the hide and sling the carcase
into a sack for hounds. Then it starts—
the private ceremony: I am both priest
and silent acolyte, serving my end

in calculated patience. There is no miracle
in transcendence: no soft way. Prepare
for maggots, excrement and decay. Week
upon week ensue the unremitting rituals:
wash, scrape, scour. Day after day I stir
the clouded vat of slaked lime where the hide
haunts like a prayer; steep and drench again;

stretch it taut on the rack; abrade
with pumice in slow circles the refined skin
until it’s done. Now, translucent to my lamp;
a bride, waiting for the event, it glows,
flawless. I rest, content at last to sleep.
No pride, I serve my purpose.
That is all.