Sydney Lea

Abbatoir Time
September 15, 2012 Lea Sydney

Abbatoir Time


The widower pushed the tailgate shut and fell.

The two sounds –click and thud– seemed synchrony,

As if one in fact were function of the other.

The red calf, bound for veal in the pickup’s bed,

Looked rearward over his shoulder. No one there.

A ginger-hackled rooster, framed by the door

Of the loft, screamed loudly, sun igniting him

To noontime flame. He sent six hens in a dash

For cover under bush and sill, as though

His love-assault might be a thing far worse

Than the farmer felt – or rather did not feel,


The death so quick and commotionless his livestock

Didn’t notice. Everything once had purpose

Here, and meaning, and might still have, if only

He’d stayed to read them.  Now a skinny cloud

Rode unremarked on a breeze above the barn,

Unsafe and leaning.  His horse, a spavined relic

From other ages, whickered behind the house,

All canted too, its paint mere scattered flakes.

Meaning and purpose had blurred in recent years

But the farmer kept right after them no matter.

Who’d free the weanling now, who lead him to slaughter?

A former Pulitzer finalist and winner of the Poets’ Prize, Sydney Lea served as founding editor of New England Review and was Vermont’s Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2015.  He is the author of 23 books, the latest “Seen from All Sides: Lyric and Everyday Life,” essays; fourteen of these volumes are poetry collections, the most recent of which is Here (Four Way Books, NYC, 2019). In 2021, he was presented with his home state of Vermont’s most prestigious artist’s distinction: the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.