|The Collected Poems of Steve McRoberts
"It's the way I was raised."
--Overheard response to the question:
"Why do you eat meat?"
They start out in the nursery with tales by mom and dad:
hunters rescue little girls by shooting wolves so Big and Bad,
while a duty-bound, remarkably efficient, farmer's wife
mutilates disabled mice with her husband's carving knife.
You know they're not as real as Santa in his fur-trimmed coat
whipping harnessed slaves: the reindeer straining to stay afloat
(whose job it is to serve mankind and never shirk or tire
while dragging home the massive weight of all that we desire).
In Sunday School they preach at you: humility, abasement,
and of our LORD and Father (a Santa Claus replacement)
who loves, with flared almighty nostrils, the smell of burning flesh
(especially when the body's warm and still is kicking fresh).
Who, as a perfect man, to demonstrate his power
multiplied a school of fish for humans to devour,
and showed who's boss by driving human demons into pigs
and showed what nature's for by cursing trees for lacking figs.
They hand you worms, and hooks with barbs, and grandpa's fishing pole:
you learn to lead the dance of death, enjoying the control.
You hang your victims out to die, and pose for photographs
as grownups slap you on the back and brag on your behalf.
You watch that clown on television: mirth he will arouse
while serving up your happy meal of butchered, smiling, cows,
and when you eat their murdered flesh, you certainly conclude
that animals were born to serve; they're merely walking food.
You try to imitate your dad, who knows and understands,
whose judgment you respect much more than any other man's.
Standing by the kitchen sink you'll have a son-and-father chat
as he drowns unwanted kittens minutes out of your old cat.
In school they pass out frogs and scalpels stored upon the shelf;
they say that it's the only way to learn about yourself.
When you relate your expertise, your dad makes a decision:
next Thanksgiving you're to make the ritual incision!
But as you dine upon the heart you've proudly just cut out,
I wonder if you'll ever come to entertain a doubt
about a life's philosophy which best is paraphrased:
"I cannot change because it's just the way that I was raised."