The Blind Pig and the Irish Abbatoir

When I was in Ireland back in May/June, I stayed a night in the city of Limerick. I have an elderly aunt who has lived there for probably 60 years or more. When I was a child, we made an almost annual summer school holiday trip from London to Kerry, and would pass through Limerick, sometimes staying overnight. My aunt and her family lived in a small flat in a Georgian terrace in the centre of Limerick, in Thomas Street. Opposite was a pig abattoir.

This time back, the pig abattoir was gone, but there is a pub in Thomas Street now, called “The Blind Pig”. My aunt now lives about a kilometre out of the city.

I visited and read at the monthly “On the Nail” poetry group at The Barge in Limerick. The Limerick Writers Centre was launching edition 26 of it quarterly literary journal “Revival”; a lovely group of people, and I was impressed overall with how much Limerick has changed from the days when it used to be called “Knife City”. Mind you, on my way back from “On the Nail”, there was a punch up in O’Connell Street involving both men and women.

“Revival” publishes poetry from all over the world, not just Ireland. So I was very pleased today to receive in the post edition 27 of “Revival”.  It includes my poem “Complicity”, about my memory of my aunt’s small Thomas Street flat. Here it is:


Looking over Limerick

from my aunt’s

third floor flat


the first sight

across Thomas Street

is O’Mara’s bacon factory.


My stomach heaves

a blood stench

foul faeces reek.


Shrill pig terror

distresses my senses

assaults my ears.


Warm summer evenings

she opens all the windows

onto the street.


My dreams are of

pink bristled carcasses

hanging from hooks


twisting in mid air

life ebbing onto sawdust,

sluicing from slit throats.


This morning she

places before me

eggs and rashers


forbids me to leave

the table until

my plate is clean.


I cannot defy her.

Flensing the rind

from the fat


stabbing a sliver

of fried flesh into

the exposed yolk


I savour

the coral coloured

yellow daubed meat.


After breakfast

I am drawn

to the scene of


doomed animals

disgorged from

the bowels of trucks


wide staring

eyes damning me

for complicity.

copyright Mike Hopkins 2013