Flayed heads hang in rows, spiked on metal racks, ready
for inspection. The technique is to hold the tongue,
long and thick in one hand, and use the knife to separate
flesh between the cheek and the root of muscle.

The tongue twitches as the blade cuts through, slicing
lymph nodes, tonsils – looking for signs of infection, pus.
It’s slippery with mucus as it twists in the hand.
Pairs of skinned, black eyes stare, waiting their turn.

On cold mornings, almost comforting to examine warm
offal, to feel the greasy smooth inner skins for abnormalities,
the soft sponge of lungs, the ribbed windpipe,
rubbery liver, the heavy, firm walls of the heart.

Meanwhile, others continue to be hung upside down and stuck,
blood splashing from their necks, spilling over
stainless steel, slipping between drain grates
to gel in chilled vats. Black pudding.

Kent and Sussex Poetry Society Portfolio 2004

Cold hands