Lori's Book Nook

For your reading pleasure…

Posted on: December 14, 2006

I thought I’d share some Al Purdy with you. A powerful Canadian poet, books still available.

Without further ado…

Piling Blood
by Al Purdy

It was powdered blood
in heavy brown paper bags
supposed to be strong enough
to prevent the stuff from escaping
but didn’t

We piled it ten feet high
right to the shed roof
working at Arrow Transfer
on Granville Island
The bags weighed 75 pounds
and you had to stand on two
of the bags to pile the top rows
I was six feet three inches
and needed all of it

I forgot to say
the blood was cattle blood
horses sheep and cows
to be used for fertilizer
the foreman said
It was a matter of some delicacy
to plop the bags down softly
as if you were piling dynamite
if you weren’t gentle
the stuff would belly out
from bags in brown clouds
settle on your sweating face
cover hands and arms
enter ears and nose
seep inside your pants and shirt
reverting back to liquid bood
and you looked like
you’d been scalped
by a tribe of
particularly unfriendly
Indians and forgot to die

We piled glass as well
it came in wooden crates
two of us hoicking them
off trucks into warehouses
every crate
weighing 200 pounds
By late afternoon
my muscles would twitch and throb
in a death-like rhythm
from hundreds of bags of blood
and hundreds of crates of glass

Then at Burns’ slaughterhouse
on East Hastings Street
I got a job part time
shouldering sides of frozen beef
hoisint it from steel hooks
staggering to and from
the refrigerated trucks
and eerie freezing rooms
with breath a white vapour
among the dangling corpses
and the sound of bawling animals
screeched down from an upper floor
with their throats cut
and blood gurgling into special drains
for later retrieval

And the blood smell clung to me
clung to clothes and body
sickly and sweet
and I heard the screams
of dying cattle
and I wrote no poems
there were no poems
to exclude the screams
which boarded the streetcar
and travelled with me
till I reached home
turned on the record player
and faintly
in the last century
heard Beethoven weeping


3 Responses to "For your reading pleasure…"

Hoicking good!

“and I wrote no poems
there were no poems
to exclude the screams”

That is what happens to my muse each time I listen to the news. My response, so often, is flippancy.

I transcribed this poem for a friend — who’d spent the day butchering meat. The atmosphere of blood…

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