Oh, it’s stupid, I know, to be
so squeamish about every cruelty—
toads severed under mower blades,
deer gnarled by the side of the road—
when so many animals themselves
are too amply designed
for ripping tendon from bone.
Still, I wince every time I pass them—
pigs snuffling in troughs, steers
graining up in lots, doomed
to the abattoir and the butcher’s hook.
Though better, perhaps, to have the bullet
to the brain than the cat’s claw
pricking the body to exhaustion.
More merciful the sledge to the forehead
than the pack of mouths at the heel
slowly drawing a river of blood.
And here are the lobsters at the market,
crowded in a tank that seems insufficient,
a pot of boiling water steaming
in the back room where they’ll end.
And yes, I’ve ordered two, happy
that someone else will cook them,
cowardly on my part, I know,
though better, perhaps, for the lobsters,
queasy as I am and clumsier for it.
Always some prayer to whisper
over the sweet white meat,
some blessing, too, for those
who bring such quick and sudden ends
as we might only dream of,
blessings to the python who snaps
the frail mouse in its love embrace,
to the lizard who tongues
the fly out of the air, blessed
the Great Horned Owl whose talons
are long and everlasting.