The Abattoir

It was 1950s Virginia, a sultry
summer afternoon, on a day trip
with grandmother, aunt, mom and sis,
packed into the station wagon,
off to pick apples in the rolling hills.

For a small girl of five,
the ride seemed long,
but the apples were large
and sweet, Aunt Jean sliced
one up and we each ate a piece.

Going home we stopped along
the way at a building, its
whitewashed walls painted
with cows and pigs, a name in
big letters I couldn’t read.

Mom said, “You girls stay in the car.”
but auntie countered, let them come,
time they learned about these things,
they’re not too young to see where
their dinner comes from.

The air inside was steamy and close,
a strange smell, a little like metal,
filled the place, a man hosed away
a sticky red pool down a drain in the floor,
nearby a cow laid, with a gash in its throat.

What kind of person could think
this was a place for a child to see?
The horror of it haunts me still,
in dark corners of memory, indelibly
inlaid, some things can never be unseen.

© 2016 DM Shepherd


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