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The Early Purges

 I was six when I first saw kittens drown.
Dan Taggart pitched them, 'the scraggy wee shits', Into a bucket; a frail metal sound, Soft paws scraping like mad.
But their tiny din Was soon soused.
They were slung on the snout Of the pump and the water pumped in.
'Sure, isn't it better for them now?' Dan said.
Like wet gloves they bobbed and shone till he sluiced Them out on the dunghill, glossy and dead.
Suddenly frightened, for days I sadly hung Round the yard, watching the three sogged remains Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung Until I forgot them.
But the fear came back When Dan trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows Or, with a sickening tug, pulled old hens' necks.
Still, living displaces false sentiments And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown I just shrug, 'Bloody pups'.
It makes sense: 'Prevention of cruelty' talk cuts ice in town Where they consider death unnatural But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down.

by Seamus Heaney
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