Slaughtering Sheep, High Andes

By Catherine Allen
I would make myself watch:

The sheep trussed
lying on her side
eyes going dull, throat sliced open 
blood spurting into a basin

while Luis sang softly 
sawed the jugular deftly
steadied her gently 
through death’s brief spasm.

I stood by –

Luis blowing coca leaves
              calling to mountains:
              Lords Antaqaqa, Pachawani, Ayapata
              look kindly here, this blood is yours.    

he offered me the knife:
You do it this time?

Could I? 
             Bear down on the blade
             saw straight across the throat
             hold the creature steady
             while she bled and died?  

But could I 
              call those hungry mountains
              bring them close 
              to join with her in death 
              and us in gratitude?  

                            The moment passed.

About the author

Catherine Allen is a cultural anthropologist and writer, retired from George Washington University in order to concentrate on poetry. Like much of her writing, “Slaughtering Sheep” responds to her experiences in the Andean highlands of Peru. She is deeply grateful to the Quechua-speaking farmers and herders who, over four decades, have inspired her life’s work – which, in addition to poetry, includes ethnography, drama, and creative non-fiction. She lives in Greenbelt, Maryland with a wooly white dog named Jimmy.

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