Marks, Corey

United States, (contemporary)

A Partial History of Swine

  1. The Question
  2.  
  3. At night in the slop yard where swine
  4. settle under tall yard lights cauterizing the dark,
  5. the sound always comes back:
  6.  
  7. a mosquito’s wire-thin insistence bending in
  8. and out of their ears,
  9. an unanswered question.
  10.  
  11. — ~ —
  12.  
  13. DeSoto Brings Thirteen Swine to the New World
  14.  
  15. The swine had never been on water before.
  16. For weeks they heard it sloshing the hull,
  17. creaking its weight against the boards
  18. they rooted along for some scattered bit of slop,
  19.  
  20. but saw nothing they’d never seen before —
  21. not the water’s vast stranglehold on the ship,
  22. nor the constant carnival of gulls —
  23.  
  24. just every other pig’s dim ass
  25. swaying its way toward the new world.
  26.  
  27. — ~ —
  28.  
  29. Microcosm
  30.  
  31. The swine won’t drink from the trough.
  32. They recognize something new
  33.  
  34. has breached the water,
  35. a world without bones:
  36.  
  37. along the scummy bottom
  38. larvae curl,
  39. little triggers.
  40.  
  41. — ~ —
  42.  
  43. Swine on Christ
  44.  
  45. What’s he done that’s so special?
  46.  
  47. Bleed? Die?
  48.  
  49. I’ve seen that trick before.
  50.  
  51. — ~ —
  52.  
  53. Transubstantiation
  54.  
  55. This little piggy went to market
  56. where one name strips away as scalded skin,
  57. and another is uncovered in the flesh itself,
  58. marbled like fat in muscle.
  59.  
  60. This is where decisions are made about the body,
  61. where the body becomes not its parts
  62. but the butcher’s sacrament:
  63.  
  64. Eat, and be whole.
  65.  
  66. — ~ —
  67.  
  68. The American Family Eats Pork
  69.  
  70. Each fork raises its own sliver of chop
  71. Rub pork with garlic
  72. to an American mouth
  73. Dredge in flour
  74. as the refrigerator murmurs a lament so constant
  75. Brown in heavy skillet
  76. no one hears it.
  77. Heat thoroughly to avoid disease
  78.  
  79. — ~ —
  80.  
  81. The Answer
  82.  
  83. The pig says nothing, but whines
  84. until the gunshot sucks the whine from its voice
  85. under yellow light staining the slop yard with every
  86. brilliance
  87. but illumination.
  88.  
  89. — ~ —
  90.  
  91. A Joke
  92.  
  93. A mosquito and a swine are on a boat
  94. after three days of drifting.
  95. Finally, the swine says,
  96.  
  97. You must look at me and think Ham or Tripe.
  98. Huff and puff. Trichinosis. Whatever.
  99. But me, I’ve been thinking about History.
  100.  
  101. The mosquito says,
  102.  
  103. Soieee.

© Corey Marks. Used with permission.
Renunciation. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

About the Poet

Corey Marks currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English at the University of North Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston, an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and a BA in English from Kalamazoo College.

In 1999, Philip Levine selected Marks’ first book, Renunciation, as a winner in the National Poetry Series Open Competition. [DES-6/03]

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A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.