FAMILY BUSINESS

The outside steps to the store room

are only a zigzag mark in brickwork now, rx

and there is no smell of brine

where sausage skins were left to soak.

I walk into the yard.

On the right is the bake-house.

My glasses steamed up on cold days

and I worked through finger smears, drugstore

jellied pies,

caught cockroaches,

had tea-breaks.

In the next room

Trevor took the end off his finger in the mincer;

Pop called him a twerp.

The end room is where we boiled hams,

chawls, black-puddings

in three great coppers.

The deep-freezers are empty shells,

only hinges in door-frames

where foot-thick doors once hung.

Reg would never have got out

had Pop not gone back after the telephone call.

Almost as cold as New Zealand lamb

Reg didn’t seem graetful,

just angry,

a string of expletives

as Pop rubbed his hands and shoulders, back and legs.

Reg laughed a funny laugh, then walked home.

‘The alcohol in his blood stream must have saved him’

Pop said.

How did so many beasts fit into this slaughter-house?

I take photographs of rusting hooks,

runnels in the floor,

brambles trailing through a broken window.

There was a scalding tank here,

brim-full of boiling water

where pigs’ heads bounced as I scraped

bristles from shoulders and flanks

leaving flesh as clean and fresh and pink

as a young girls.

My camera flashes and flashes and flashes.

How can walls this thick be bulldozed?

Bank Street Writers