We eat.  We are eaten.  Wonderful!

                  —the Vedas 


Always there must be the taste of pain: 

Something ripped open, something torn apart 

And ground between rough stones, something sliding 

Down a dank passage into blackness, gnawed

By acid and enzymes with elfin names—

Ptyalin, Pepsin, Trypsin, Lipase, Amylase—

Then trundled down the bowels' coiled conveyer 

Belt to squeeze out as a stinking sludge.  


Always there must be the reek of death: 

Something decapitated, felled by a hammer 

Between the eyes, dart from an air-gun, 

Bullet to the brain—something blasted 

From the sky, pierced by an arrow, tracked 

Bleeding through the snow—something jerked 

Up by the roots, torn from its mother, hacked 

Off at the thigh with leaves attached.  


Something's life is poured into another's cup, 

Leaving the drinker bloodstained, tainted

With the steam of rot. No wonder 

I rejected what was gooshy, clotted,

Full of lumps. No wonder I spit up 

In my high chair. I sensed, behind my grinding 

Teeth and growling gut, worms chewing, 

Germs' fanged mouths yawning to swallow me.  



from Reading the Water, published by Northeastern University Press, © 1997 by Charles Harper Webb.