Printer Friendly

Slaughter: on the properties generally required of the syntax of a formal system.

1. A system inconsistent with respect to negation would admit both a proposition and its opposite.

Remembering the shot that seemed to burst with no rebound (early November, a time when the light had waxed, but verged on turning back), I asked what had happened and how it was done, for I had been reading the same story over and over of the breakdown in the fullness of the world. I finally realized what I had hidden from, in those early years, was exactly the knowledge that had disappeared behind the givenness of all things to us now. I had thought the very sound of the shot had created the silence the denying silence, around it. And that the lack of an aftermath had come to stand for the loss of anything I might have known then.

They began with the took, the good set of knives, the curved one for skinning and the straight one for cuts, and the whetstones, the steels, the cleavers and bell scrapers, the saws and hooks, the stunning ax and the windlass. They told how God had wanted meat and so Abraham went forth - resigned to duty's technology; how some things must be done when the season is upon us and once begun, cannot be left uncompleted. The animal should sleep, they said, and be given only water - for three days before the killing time. The stunning must be short, exact - a blow or shot to the forehead at the cross of an X between the horns and eyes.

2. A system will lose its consistency if an axiom is added to it.

The sticker said, if you want my job, you must face in the same direction as the animal and stretch its neck as far as possible, then press your foot against the jaw and forelegs while you cut through the skin from breastbone to throat - you'll see at last the windpipe is exposed. Push with your shoe on the animal's flank; the bleeding will flow most freely. In the wilderness a voice was burning out of the thorn-stuck bush and the stones. God had in mind a supplement, turning the scene against itself, and would make what seemed at first beyond measure something trivial, undone - a kind of swerve like mercy, shielding us from closure. They explained the skinning must start with the head, and that, very slowly, the knife should be traced from the back of the poll to the nostril on the left, just along the line of the eye. They said to skin the side and a short distance down the neck until the head would be up on its base at last and, grasping the head by the lower jaw, they'd unjoint it at the atlas, then cut, and twist, and pull until it fell away, for good, on the ground. Some of this had to be said with gestures, but none interrupted or argued the order. With the straight knife one would sever the tendons at the hock joint. The hind legs would hang then, dangling free.

3. Regarding decidability, there must be an effective procedure for deciding when a given proposition belongs to the system or not.

The dew claws have no purpose, but are taken as a marker for splitting to the hock, across the taut back of the thigh, and within a few inches of the cod. Then the hide must be split from the middle of the belly without disturbing the abdomen's shell or the delicate thin fell membrane. Each name was given by Adam in the garden during the sullen, buzzing, afternoons once the world was whole. They warned me that the blood spots must be wiped and wiped away, then wiped again with water and a warm soft cloth. The person who does this task must have a tender kind of attention

And must make sure no leaves or dust fall into the tin tub where the water swirls. The caul fat must be taken out with care. Next someone strong should loosen the pelvis and the windpipe, then saw and split them each, leaving them exposed. What meaning crucifixion has depends on display and disappearance, for when is materiality ever more grand than when it is contradicted? The magician sawed the assistant into halves, and showed the bones, and twirled the black boxes like two moustache ends, but when the re-hinging worked, she leapt up, puffed her chest, and kissed his cheek. When the stone was rolled back, the tomb yawned, empty.

4. In the syntax of the formal system, the axioms must be independent in relation to one another.

The old ones told me how to build the timber tripod and how to use a gas pipe stretched between the tendons and the shank bones. Broom handle sticks are tied to the rope ends, then worked as levers to raise and spread the legs. One explained how the skinning proceeds with the hoisting, another showed how to sever and withdraw the stiffening tail. Taking turns, they went into the beating of the hide, the working loose of the rectum, the severing, in the final stages, of the glossy violet liver. "Wash the liver and hang it to cool; wash the heart - hang it by the small end, too.

Keep the fat clustered against the tongue and hang it up to drain, and cool, and dry. Save the rest of the fat for soap and tallow. Wash the stomach until it's perfectly clean, the inner surface webbed with white. When the carcass has been split down the center of the backbone, the two halves should be pinned with a smooth muslin shroud. They must stay this way until morning so that the living heat will disperse and the fresh cuts can be cold, and cleanly made." Out of one being a vastness; out of one task the division of labor; out of one shot the myriad silence: winter's gory fruit.

5. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar ... Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said ~See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'

Now let us go back to the stunning, to the meeting of a human and animal mind, let us go back and begin again where the function overwhelms an hesitation and seems like an act of nature. But they were tired and had no time for me, the immense weight of memory dragged up and brought back into the present was, too, like a great beast, beached and spoiled. I finally grasped what had happened, how the real could not be evoked except in a kind of false longing for the past or the mockery that was just, after all, another occasion for suffering. There would be no more instruction, no more, in the end, hand guiding the hand.
COPYRIGHT 1994 World Poetry, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Stewart, Susan
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Previous Article:Lamentation for Martha Graham.
Next Article:The desert (1990-1993).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters