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
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,
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.