....and sometimes the line is moving so fast
the head-of-line guy with the electric stunner doesn’t have the time
the cow properly
and the cow shunts on down the line
dazed but alive
to the second man,
an Estonian, aged 54, (sending money home
to see after the grandchildren).
His task- to slit the cow’s throat
as soon as the cow’s been stunned unconscious
by the first man (from just outside Tirana)
but an unstunned cow will throw a bovine tantrum for its life
against the second man,
kicking and bucking and butting against the eighteen-inch blade,
even as the blood is being drawn
and sometimes the struggle is so rough and prolonged
that the middle-aged man from Estonia is forced to withdraw the blade
in order to steady or defend himself
and once or twice the bloody blade
has fallen and slopped into the blood-and-offal river
on the factory floor
where the man, like all the men,
must seep the leather of his boots all day.
Despite the beast strength
and mindless courage of the cow
the second man, this man with precarious
always manages, eventually,
and even without halting the line
-which would lead to penalties
for everyone -
to open the throat from ear to ear.
Out floods the thick red life of a cow.
Always the new dead cow is advanced
to the third man, 21, from northern Brazil...
At the end of each weekday the second man-
is covered head to toe in hoof-shaped bruises,
reminiscent of cowhide.