Tuesday Poem: ‘Abattoir’ by Lauren McLean


There was a hoof in the corridor this morning
Just a hoof, by the wall
Like an old tyre, tossed aside
Yet so utterly different: it was a goddamn hoof

One grows accustomed to odd pieces of flesh
A chunk of gristle slick on the stairs, smudged by the trudging boots
The shiny, vermillion progress of meat as it oozes down a wall
Deposited by the unknowing brush of a slaughterman’s shoulder

Dad used to tell me a riddle: what’s black and white and red all over?
He always said it was a newspaper. Now I say it’s an abattoir
It’s dark machinery, and white fat, and glistening raw beef
It’s dirty concrete, and bleached overalls, and blood; blood everywhere

But the hoof got to me; the sheer ridiculousness of it
Before I knew it I’d burbled laughter, and a passing worker,
All knives and gore and sweat and seriousness
Asked what was so funny

I merely pointed; he squinted, paused, tilted, smiled
‘It’s a hoof,’ he said. ‘I know,’ I said.
Then we giggled. The stench of hot death filled our nostrils
As we sucked in air to fuel our shared mirth

I passed by later, glanced over
The hoof was gone

I wanted to share the poem “Abattoir” by Lauren McLean because I found it so enjoyable to read. I find the matter-of-fact voice in the poem hooks me in, and the understated imagery powerful. The poem knows when to apply pressure, though, with the “dark machinery, and white fat, and glistening raw beef / It’s dirty concrete, and bleached overalls, and blood; blood everywhere.” The speaker in the poem is casual, but toward the end of the poem there is an undercurrent of hysteria. Lauren is one of my tutorial students at Massey University, and this was one of two poems she wrote for an assignment. Thanks for letting me share it, Lauren.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

5 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Abattoir’ by Lauren McLean

  1. The shared hysteria really got to me – when the worker passing by joins her in giggling and gasping. I’m sure we’ve all felt this. It’s such an accomplished poem – thanks for sharing, Sarah & Lauren!

  2. This poem might be full of death but it contains joy as well. it takes a lot of skill or and great instinct to write like this. look forward to seeing more of your poetry Lauren and Sarah thanks for sharing it with us!

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