As our animal carcasses queue up one by one
in trucks, on digger-scoops,
there is no Arc, no Noah,
no dove-green frond of olive branch
to save them drowning in their blood,
from being forked dust to dust under rusted earth
or from the scourge of flaming pyre.
After all their slaughter is to keep the country
on a straight political track.
Yet, following rural ancestors,
through the mass of this ritual cull
we find ourselves retraced to Medieval fates
remembering earlier acts of violence
on local soil,
lives rendered for future ills –
St Urith from the heart of our farming land
and from the cathedral city, St Sidwell.
Severed, each saintly head is sacred.
We sip from the bowl-hollowed cranium
in the cradle of hallowed earth,
spin through the dreaming gyre of her well –
everlasting as stars
flowers perpetually teeming
from the depths of this deadly seed-bed.
Note; The last Foot and Mouth outbreak in Devon, in 2001, had a huge impact on the rural community, with repercussions that still resonate with many people. Both St Sidwll and St Urith are associated with Devon. As martyrs their severed heads possessed the power of healing: flowers were said to bloom whenever a drop of blood was sprinkled on the earth where they died.