Saturday Poem

The Accolade of the Animals

All those he never ate
appeared to Bernard Shaw
single file in his funeral
procession as he lay abed
with a cracked infected bone
from falling of his bicycle.
They stretched from Hampton Court
downstream to Piccadilly
against George Bernard’s pillow
paying homage to the flesh
of man unfleshed by carnage.

Just shy of a hundred years
of pullets, laying hens
no longer laying, ducks, turkeys,
pigs and piglets, old milk cows,
anemic vealers, grain-fed steer,
the annual Easter lambkin,
the All Hallows’ mutton
ring-neck pheasant, deer,
bags of hare unsnared,
rosy trout and turgid carp,
tail-walking like a sketch by Tenniel.

What a cortege it was:
the smell of hay in his nose,
the pungencies of the barn,
the courtyard cobbles slicked
with wet, How we carnivores
suffer by comparison
in the jail of our desires
salivating at the smell of char
who will not live on fruits
and greens and grains alone
so long a life, so sprightly, so cocksure.

by Maxine Kumin
Viking Books, 1989