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by Leanne Averbach


From somewhere over there

the monotonous people-screams

of pigs are cut with pops

innocent as firecrackers.

Nothing much

from the cows, the stoics,

who swallow their fear

with salt oboe moans.


I've been sent to the Kill Floor

for a special task.  10,000 sealed packs of bologna

forgotten and spoiled. A few of us are chosen,

assigned to crouch around The Pit

and empty the units of meat

one-by-creamy-one; but after an hour,

only two of us have not run off

to empty ourselves.


The stench, having nowhere to go, crawls

into my mouth, while my eyes and ears

get busy arguing ontology.  Without their hair

save a few sprigs missed by the flame gun

animals have no race; beneath their browns

reds and calicos, they are all plain as white men,

severely deformed white men: best to eat them.


The freshly deceased.

Slung cheek to cheek they

glide overhead on hooked tracks.

Spilling onto the beetle heads of men.


My meatmate and I work silently

avoid the hazards of open mouths

toss the rotten meat into the hole

for dog food, fertilizer.

Across the gorge a face

beneath a hair net, the rubbery surface of her skin

now thick with oily atmosphere and that hardhat

spilling red from above and down her neck

like mine.


The woman on the other side

works out the day with me, until at last:

the sudden, boorish beauty of the horn whistle.


It urges us to the exit.

The bang of the card clock

triggers talk about the blueglow and beer to come

as hardhats and smocks

purple from brush strokes with flesh

weave out through the less soiled

incoming shift.