Robert Bly
What the Animals Paid

The Hampshire ewes standing in their wooden pens,

Their shiny black hooves close to each other,


Had to pay with their wool, with their wombs,

With their eating, with their fear of the dogs.


Every animal had to pay. Horses paid all day;

They pulled stone-boats and the ground pulled back.


And the pigs? They paid with their squealing

When the knife entered the throat and the blood


Followed it out. The blood, steaming and personal,

Paid it. Any debt left over the intestines paid.


"I am what I am." The pig could not say that.

The women paid with their bowed heads, and the men,


My father among them, paid with their drinking.

Demons shouted: "Pay to the last drop!" I paid


The debt another way. Because I did not pay

In the farm way, I am writing this poem today.

Found In Volume 26, No. 03
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Robert Bly
About the Author

Robert Bly’s newest book is Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey (WW Norton & Co, 2011).