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This poem is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

'Slaughterer' and Other Poems Vahni Capildeo

The tears curled from the cattle's eyes, their horns curled back, their coats curled like frost-ferns on windshields or the hair on the heads of Sikandar's soldiers. Two of my grand-father's sons, when he knew he was dying, took him from his bed. They supported him out the doorway so he could say goodbye to his favourite cattle. The cattle wept. They knew him. They are not like cattle here. They live among the household and on the hills, which are very green, and they eat good food, the same food as the household, cut-up pieces of leftover chapatti.

You do not get stories like that in books. I am telling you because you only have things to read. Whenever anybody tried to make me read a book or anything, I would fall asleep; my head would just drop.

What is the use of reading books? What can you do after that but get an office job? Do my friends who stayed at school earn as much as me? They all have office jobs; could they do a job like mine? Could they slaughter for seventy hours without getting tired or needing to sleep?

I am telling you because you only have things to read. How old are you, beautiful reader? Have you ever been in love?

It was hard at first. I used to dream the cattle. They would come to me with big eyes, like mothers and sisters. After a few weeks, they stopped coming to me in dreams. After about five years, I stopped feeling tired: I do not need to sleep. We do three or four thousand a day in Birmingham, only a thousand a night in Lancaster.

Tonight I am going to Lancaster. I will talk to you until Lancaster. Where are you from? You are lying on me. No, where are your parents from? Are you lying on me? I came here as a teenager, and at once they tried making me read. How old are you? Why do you only have things to read? I am sorry I am talking to you. You have brought things you want to read. Beautiful reader, what is your name?

You can feel the quality of the meat in the animal when it is alive: the way its skin fits on its flesh. You can feel the quality of life in the meat. The cattle here are not good. They inject them. Their flesh is ahhh.

Look, look how beautiful. I will show you pictures of the place. Look, it is very green.

Neomarica Sky Jet


that I may have tokens
by which to remember you
no please no more keeping in touch
you have already taken so much
of myself from myself, reinvested

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