Span 37

Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 37, 1993
Yorga Wangi:
Postcolonialism and Feminism

Edited by Anne Brewster, Marion Campbell, Ann McGuire, Kathryn Trees

Ode to a Butcher

Alison Greenwood Maitland

I read it on the property page.
They say your shop will
make a nice cafe,
being on the corner
of tree-lined streets.

I sobbed like I never did
when my father died. Then,
I repelled sympathy
with a dry voice.

I walk past your shop now.
Inside a hanger,
the hanger that wore your jacket.
I want to burn down the auction sign.

Hubby working? you'd shout.
I'd hardly hesitate before lying.
You think I'm one of those out there,
a driver of Volvos,
legs waxed not shaven.
Actually, I only rent
and live alone
with my daughter.

In your shop on the corner buying meat
we'd stare out the windows together, you and I.
You'd gaze over my shoulder
I'd gaze over yours.
Silence.
You've gazed out that window for thirty years.

I see the blackheads in your nose,
the red mince that clings to the meat axe.

You hand over the change,
are you reaching out to me?
You give me the parcel,
will you give me love?
I lift my child onto your tall old stool,
but really you're lifting her into your arms.

Little do you know the tears I will have
when that jacket stays hanging on the freezer door.
Yes, I'm sobbing and making the newspaper wet.

Unlike those funeral parlour tears,
when I stood in the room with my father's body
in the coffin I had to choose.
I went out into that winter evening
to those naked trees,
my tears frosted.

Little do you know
this is not a butcher shop
this is a living room
you're in an armchair
I'm sitting at your feet
an elbow resting on your knee.
I'm your favourite daughter, I'm your only daughter -
that's your joke.
You call me Sweetie too
and Honey.

We talked of rugby and cricket.
You listened to it
on your cheap transistor on the chopping block.
My father played it.

He didn't shout like you.
And now his boots hang on the wall
and your jacket is gone
though the hanger is there
as I peer through the blind.

In the reflection, a lady:
Will she see my tears?
I'll swing round to her
hang off the auction sign and say
Hey! What a great cafe it's going to be.


Swanbourne, Western Australia


Ode to a Butcher won the Bobbie Cullen Memorial Award for Poetry in 1993.


New: 13 December, 1996 | Now: 22 April, 2015