Piling Blood

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a collection of Poems by the dead legendary Canadian Al Purdy

Piling Blood

It was powdered blood

in heavy brown paper bags

supposed to be strong enough

to prevent the stuff from escaping

but didn't

we piled it ten feet high

right to the shed roof

working at Arrow Transfer

on Granville Island

The bags weighed 75 pounds

and you had to stand on two

of the bags to pile the top rows

I was six feet three inches

and needed all of it

I forgot to say

the blood was cattle blood

horses sheep and cows

to be used for fertilizer

the foreman said

It was a matter of some delicacy

to plop the bags down softly

as if you were piling dynamite

if you weren't gentle

the stuff would belly out

from bags in brown clouds

settle on your sweating face

cover hands and arms

enter ears and nose

seep inside pants and shirt

reverting back to liquid blood

and you looked like

you'd been scalped

by a tribe of

particularly unfreindly

Indians and forgot to die

We piled glass as well

it came in wooden crates

two of us hoicking them

off trucks into warehouses

every crate

weighing 200 pounds

By late afternoon

my muscles would twitch and throb

in a death-like rhythm

from hundreds of bags of blood

and hundreds of crates of glass

Then at Burn's slaughterhouse

on East Hastings Street

I got a job part time

shouldering sides of frozen beef

hoisting it from steel hooks

staggering to and from

the refrigerated trucks

and eerie freezing rooms

with breath a white vapour

among the dangling corpses

and the sound of bawling animals

screeched down from an upper floor

with their throats cut

and blood gurgling into special drains

for later retrieval

And the blood smell clung to me

clung to clothes and body

sickly and sweet

and I heard the screams

of dying cattle

and I wrote no poems

there were no poems

to exclude the screams

which boarded the streetcar

and travelled with me

till I reached home

turned on the record player

and faintly

in the last century

heard Beethoven weeping


Canada Lit.

15 or so years ago I saw Purdy read on south Granville,

across from where the Vancouver papers, the Sun and the Province,

use to be printed,

a chinese lady read a poem

about her boyfriend pissing on her

while she sat on the toilet

and then she drank and smoked cigarettes and watched the sun come up from her east side apartment

                                                      Purdy was not impressed

and the organizers had to

take him outside to calm him down

then he read about subduing a drunk and beer tasting like a horse fart

which my house painter friend found amusing


After i went to talk with him and buy a book from a stall he had set up… his wife was there…

i asked him what book i should buy and he said his best one was “Piling Blood.”

He signed a copy and punched me on the shoulder

i can’t remember why…

working class poems don’t seem to get a lot of play these days...

and if they do…

they are sentimentalized…


working outside in minus twenty

is not romantic or fun,

you just want the day to end

so you can get warm.


Al Purdy was a poet who worked and drank and wondered.

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