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Agnes Marton: a poem

The Carcass Pit

It was my turn to climb down.

We'd been biting the air; it wasn't enough.

I stepped on fever flies, barefoot.

(No cash for shoes either.)

I was dressed in scratch and itch,

combed by stray bones.

I landed on the sick meat.

My toes broke through the juicy bark.

I was sinking in the fuming cave of bowels

that used to be a cow.

The pocket knife

became slippery in my clenched fist.

I stroked its spine, the tang, the point,

the kick, the edge and the belly,

mastering the softest cuts of the beef,

the rib and tenderloin I didn't know the names then

the ones farthest from the horn and hoof.

Then the toughest ones, the most worn out,

the shoulder and the leg.

I trembled, a predator, sharing the haul

and the stench. And the lack of shame, then.

Puke-worthy mold and moisture

lingered till the carcass dried out,

but we wolfed down every bit,

infected or not, a barbecue

without laughter.

There is some imperceptible trace of the sin

no soap can wash clean.

Now I walk the world far from my village.

I recognise my kind, and I'm recognised.

We don't mingle but nod: friend, you made it.

You too fed on death as a child.

Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK) and Reviews Editor at The Ofi Press. Recent publications include her collection Captain Fly's Bucket List and four chapbooks with Moria Books (USA). She won the National Poetry Day Competition in the UK.


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