Mad Butcher’s love song

You’re the pent-up lady of the colonial station
and I am your farmhand, precarious hayseed
dangling from my lip, the ill-mannered
hooligan folding you like scone dough
over the smouldering coal range in the musterer’s hut.

Because it is your preference I have not wasted time
on tenderising. You sputter and waver, a wick
wet with kerosene. Like a good man, keen, I mercilessly dirty 
the butcher’s blade at my belt. Later you borrow my knife
to carve lumpen lovehearts into the bunks’ greasy slats.
If you could really kill you’d mount me

as a trophy in your dining hall. Instead you take a needle
to my neckerchief, apply prissy embroidery
proclaiming wives want me and 
fish fear me. When I tickle trout
from the silty creek to sate you
on bloodless flesh, we cannot help measuring
our grievances to establish whose is bigger.
I have no real desire to wound you 

but I could take you down a peg or two. 
So ask me not for whom the mountain-oysters toll…
Shepherdess, cocking your crook, you bad-bitch Bo-Peep,
I am aware that in your breeder fantasies 
you would replace me with any red-faced leather-fingered
young farmer of the year – eyes glazed with toil,
his act perfunctory and absent-minded as a ram’s,
testes swinging like tongueless bells
pealing strenuously for thee. 

They say the old station-holders used to castrate lambs
to wethers with their teeth – isn’t that your area
of interest? Hard men rousing on the muster
posing the evergreen question: to spit or swallow?
But think how tender those shepherds must have been
with their incisive surgery – the cutting kiss –
and all that bleating. Can you even believe the care I take

when care is asked of me? Yet I only work for you
as a man alone, butch, bullish. Someone stone, stinking 
of smoke, lanolin and oilskin; roughshod; wielding
a hoofpick for the lambsblood crusted
under my bitten hangnails; callused to the soul. My utility
is singularly in hardness, the fool gored up to the hilt
to prove your own honed steel to yourself.

I’m a tool. If you could bear to comprehend
my gentle nature, this would be a real affair. 
Instead I pack my softness down like snow. 

Still, the longer this goes on, the more my insides 
go to pulp, fizzy as fermented wild apples. 
Soon it will all seep out and you will have to choose 
a sunset to ride into. For now, saddle up.
Once we have obliterated each other again, come out 
beyond the long drop. On one knee I’ll offer up

my only other secret: let me show you
how I make the moon shine.

This poem was originally published in Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press, 2022). You can purchase it directly from the Auckland University Press website.

Featured image courtesy of author and the New Zealand Herald.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


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