I spent my summer sliding
Slippery livers into polythene bags
Barely big enough: sometimes those beef livers
Would turn and waltz right out again
And on the table, or the floor: awkward bastards.
Warm summer of seventy-eight, but chilly in the chills –
We killed a thousand cattle and a thousand sheep each week;
Someone said ‘You students should be taxed like us’ –
We knew nothing; could have otherwise retorted
That we didn’t earn as much as the tax-free allowance
In one whole long year,
And had a high level of expenses –
Chiefly beer to lubricate our often singing throats.
Trimming headmeat and thin skirts;
Trimming membranes and kidneys
And thick skirts, lugging sixty pound boxes of oxtails
In and out of those big freezers,
And beeftails too, beefhearts.
Sliding in the bloodbath, falling on our arses
Carrying cows’ heads round on hooks
In the heavy afternoon –
Even pared those heads were heavy too,
But their eyes did not accuse us.
We wore white coats and aprons
All covered in blood and fat and the contents of stomachs.
Sliding sides of beef along the rails;
Covering them decently in stocking nets
And lifting nice light lamb in the refrigerated trucks;
Clearing chutes of fat, aiming steam-hoses,
Pushing big barrows full of every kind of shite;
Cycling home for lunch and back;
Forever sharpening knives on steel.
Six in the morning, starting overtime –
You can bet those chills were chilly
For eleven meat factory weeks.