Carol Cromie

Rat Point

Death came once a fortnight
at Rat Point, in early evening.
We hunkered on the bank
above the killing board, weird
little witnesses, lords of the flies.
The butcher, our father, ran it
like a lottery, herded a half-
dozen motley sheep into a pen,
slipped his curve-blade knife from
its scabbard, spat on the whetstone,
honed a glistening edge.
In one move, he swung the gate,
flipped the nearest animal
and dragged it to the board,
kicking the gate shut after.
Tipping back the big dumb head
he slashed the pink of parted wool.
Blood spat, the four legs ran,
and the butcher set to work.
Ropes and pulleys and steel
hooks were handy in the tree.
Our father made incisions
in the beast’s knees, hoisted
and hooked up the carcass,
sliced fast down the belly.
A mass of steaming guts
fell away, under the fence wire
into the trickling stream.
The onlookers — death-row sheep,
the line of skinny dogs on chains
and little front-row patrons —
were frozen, watchful, mute.
It remained only to peel skin
from flesh and sinew, to saw
the still-warm carcass into edible
portions. Later, while we listened in
to Randy Stone and the Night Beat,
the hawk and the rat,
the stoat and the ferret
fought over leftovers and
drank from the stream.
I can’t pinpoint quite when
our butcher-father severed
head from body. Or what became
of the four neat hooves. The shearers,
we’d been told, liked to eat the eyes.

More :
Hinemoana Baker | Emma Barnes | Sarah Jane Barnett | David Beach | Iain Britton | Rachel Bush | Kay Corns | David Eggleton | Joan Fleming | Lauren Barrier Gould | Helen Heath | Emile Hofstede | Lynn Jenner | Vana Manasiadis | Rachel O'Neill | Holly Painter | Ruth Payne | Lindsay Pope | James Purtill | Samiha Radcliffe | Christopher Reid | Sam Sampson | Kerrin P. Sharpe | Jo Thorpe | Chris Tse | Tim Upperton | Maria Zajkowski