William Lawerence Betz

The Slaughter

When I was young, three or four,
it was a late fall morning.  Walking
back from the killing tree where the large sow

hung pale and juggler draining,
my hand in my father’s bloody hand
my other stuffed deep in my jacket pocket, 

it was the first truly cold morning I remember.
Crunching through the leaves towards our trailer,
past unfinished fences, junker cars and the well, 

I remember asking my father
“Where do butterflies go when it turns cold?”
Still taking large steps towards the trailer, one 

for every two of mine, the killing
knife still sticky in his hand, the killing
still fresh in his mind and all the killing 

he witnessed in Vietnam walking
with us that cold morning, he answered
as swiftly as a stroke across a shoat’s neck 

“Hell, nowhere boy, they die long before
it turns off cold.  Now, hurry up.
There’s much left to do.”



(photo by August)