Bull Ring Meat Market

By Adrian Blackledge



As if from an ancient glacier

it emerges, the head of this young goat

crystals of ice defrosting on eyelashes

and falling as tears.

Suede stubs of horns are not yet full-grown

but surely that implacable gaze

waits only for the final thaw’s

long regeneration.


Every Monday morning this man nods

to a plastic ice-cream tub

and holds up gnarled fingers and thumbs:

ten pigs’ hearts for five pounds.

When the butcher weighs each heart in his hand

and turns it to the light

it shimmers like a creature

washed up still wet from the sea.


These tongues will not speak, not now, not ever.

How big they are lying side by side

like newborn babies;

you can almost hear them breathe.

Stippled and coarse as red sandstone

heavy as stone too. Somewhere oxen

heave slowly forward,

massive, uncomplaining.


A week until Hallowe’en

and all the scraps of beef mask have gone.

Each night now needles dip and dart

as the pieces join and take shape.

Bullock heads, cow heads, faces of heifers

will wander the streets for one night.

Last year a half-bull-half-devil

oozed fire and smoke from its eyes and nose and mouth.


Cows’ feet line glass counter tops.

Each hoof, or toe, or toenail, or is it

fingernail, is painted vibrant pink

not carefully, but roughly, clumsily

as if the very last thing to be done

before the sacrifice

was the application

of a small touch of glamour.


A tray eased from a beehive is like this:

pale, intricate honeycomb

waxy, rubbery, a tessellated maze

of irregular pentagons.

Scald, cauterize, boil for three hours

with fistfuls of salt until bleached

then drench still steaming and hot

with nothing but sweet malt vinegar.


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