At the Butcher’s Shop

Meat is meat and the block of wood,
two inches thick, is all that keeps
the knife from cleaving through the tabletop.
There’s a pig on a hook by the window
that I swear has been eyeing me since I entered,
all two hundred pounds of him split open
and still nothing cut from the edge of his glare.
If it weren’t for the hook he’d run off
madly squealing down the laneway,
past all the market stalls.

And the butcher’s boy watches me as well,
his arms buried to the elbow in guts, apron soaked
with blood and his right eye dancing in its socket.
I ask for beef and edge uneasily away
from the pig as the butcher fills a bad, ties it up
and slaps the change into my palm
with an overhand chop.

There’s something makes me wonder
as I’m walking out:
Can the butcher, with all the blood on his hands
and his smock, his arms
crossed heavily against his chest,
resist the urge to see each passing animal
as two steps away from the chopping block?

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