Peters, Robert

United States, (1924-2014)

Brueghel’s Pig

  1. the world runs
  2. with a knife stuck through its hide
  3. a wedge sliced from its back

© Robert Peters. Holy Cow: Parable Poems, Red Hill Press, 1974.

Editor’s Note:

Peters is referring to the pig in the painting Brueghel, Pieter, the Elder by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Gyp, My Loving Big Black Pig: An Acrostic Poem

  1. Gyp goes with me everywhere:
  2. You’ll find him in church on Sunday
  3. Pillowed on clean straw, to the east of the alter
  4.  
  5. Muffling his wiffles, reserving grunts of pleasure,
  6. Yeasty eructations, for the noisier hymns and carols.
  7.  
  8. Lively and contented, wiggling his quirky tail
  9. Over coombes and vallies, he trots behind the
  10. Vicar as he visits his parishioners—
  11. In house, in cot, in glebe and pasture.
  12. Never once despoiling a humble hearth-stone.
  13. Glad to be sociable, he jiggles his globular testes.
  14.  
  15. Brushing a floppy ear means he wants a good scratching.
  16. In storm, in sun, the elements ne’er dissuade him:
  17. Gloriously he wallows in the finest muck-holes
  18.  
  19. Believing he is in Paradise, awash in tarry ichor.
  20. Later I must scrub him and oil his hide with suet.
  21. After that we’ll take our tea with good Dorothy Dinglett.
  22. Coarse he is outside ’tis true, but within he’s all refinement.
  23. Know, ye cynics, and be warned: and model your own deportment.
  24.  
  25. Pig-wise. Gyp-wise. You’ll surely feel an improvement
  26. In manners as well as morals. And when you next devour pork
  27. Grant a special whiff of thanks to Black Gyp and his tribe.

© Robert Peters. Hawker. Unicorn Press, 1984.

Editor’s Note:

Peters was especially interested in narrative, or “persona” poetry. Writing from the point of view of historical figures, he took excursions into the psyches of a vast gallery of historical eccentrics.

In the poem above, Gyp was a huge black pig and the pet of Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875), an Anglican clergyman and Vicar of Morwenstow in the Diocese of Exeter.

Known as Stephen Hawker or “Parson Hawker”, he was also a poet, antiquarian of Cornwall, and was known to his parishioners as something of an eccentric. Gyp, was often invited into church, along with Hawker’s nine cats, for Sunday services.

Pig-family Game

  1. I was the sow, she was the boar.
  2. Six kitchen chairs for a pen.
  3. We put on winter coats and grunted.
  4. I lay on my side, coat open
  5. and birthed six pigs.
  6. Only one was runted. Six squirts,
  7. minimal pain, minimal swelling.
  8. I peeled the after-births,
  9. then nudged the piglets into standing.
  10. Boar was in a corner plowing up edible roots.
  11. Sow ate the placentas.
  12. The piglets yanked and nuzzled her teats.
  13. Sow-milk ran, her ovaries tingled.
  14. There was froth on her mouth,
  15. in the black juicy loam of the pen.

© Robert Peters. What Dillinger Meant to Me, Seahorse Press, 1983.

The Sow’s Head
(for James Wright)

  1. The day was like pewter.
  2. The gray lake a coat
  3. open at the throat. The border
  4. of trees — frayed mantle collar,
  5. hairs, evergreen. The sky dun.
  6. Chilling breeze. Hem of winter.
  7.  
  8. I passed the iodine-colored brook
  9. hard waters open
  10. the weight of the sow’s head
  11. an ache from shoulder to waist,
  12. the crook of my elbow numb.
  13. Juices seeping through
  14. the wrapping paper.
  15.  
  16. I was wrong to take it.
  17. There were meals in it.
  18. I would, dad said, assist
  19. with slaughter, scrape off
  20. hair, gather blood.
  21. I would be whipped for
  22. thieving from the dogs.
  23.  
  24. I crossed ice
  25. which shivered, shone.
  26. No heads below, none;
  27. nor groans — only water, deep,
  28. and the mud beds of frogs asleep;
  29. not a bush quivered,
  30. not a stone. Snow.
  31.  
  32. Old snow had formed
  33. hard swirls bone
  34. and planes with
  35. windwhipped ridges
  36. for walking upon;
  37. and beneath, in the deep,
  38. bass quiet, perch whirling
  39. fins, bluegills, sunfish,
  40. dim-eyed soaking heat.
  41. Mud would be soft down there,
  42. rich, tan, deeper than a man:
  43. silt of leeches, leaves
  44. tumbling in from trees,
  45. loon feces, mulch-thick
  46. mudquick, and lignite forming,
  47. cells rumbling, rifts.
  48.  
  49. I knelt, chopped through
  50. layers of ice until
  51. water, pus, spilled up
  52. choking the wound. I widened
  53. the gash. Tchick! Tchick!
  54. Chips of ice flew.
  55. Water blew from the hole,
  56. the well, a whale, expired.
  57. My knees were stuck to the ice.
  58.  
  59. I unwrapped the paper.
  60. The head appeared
  61. shorn of its beard.
  62. Its ears stood up, the snout
  63. with its Tinker Toy holes
  64. held blood. Its eyes were shut.
  65. There was grain on its mouth.
  66.  
  67. It sat on the snow
  68. as though it lived below,
  69. leviathan come for air
  70. limbs and hulk
  71. dumb to my presence there.
  72.  
  73. I raised the sow’s head
  74. by its ears. I held it
  75. over the hole, let it go,
  76. watched it sink, a glimmer
  77. of pink, a wink of a match
  78. an eyelid . . .
  79.  
  80. A bone in my side beat.

© Robert Peters. The Sow’s Head and Other Poems, Wayne State University Press, 1968.

The Butchering: Eagle River, Wisconsin

  1. I
  2. Dad told me to hold the knife
  3. and the pan. I heard the click
  4. on wood of the bullet inserted,
  5. rammed. Saw a flicker thrash
  6. in a tree beside the trough,
  7. saw a grain in the sow’s mouth,
  8. felt my guts slosh.
  9.  
  10. “Stand back,” dad said.
  11. Waffled snow track
  12. pressed by his boots and mine.
  13. Blood and foam. “Keep the knife
  14. sharp, son, and hold the pan.”
  15. One of us had shuffled,
  16. tramped a design,
  17. feet near the jackpine.
  18. “She’ll bleed slow.
  19. Catch all the blood you can.”
  20.  
  21. A rose unfolded, froze.
  22. “Can’t we wait?” I said.
  23. “It should turn warmer.”
  24.  
  25. Spark, spark buzzing
  26. in the dark.
  27.  
  28. “It’s time,” dad said, and waited.
  29.  
  30. II
  31. Bless all this beauty! preacher
  32. had exclaimed; all sin and beauty
  33. in this world! Beast and innocent!
  34.  
  35. Fistbones gripped the foreshortened
  36. pulpit rim. Thick glasses drove
  37. his furious pupils in.
  38.  
  39. II
  40. Dad brought the rifle to the skull.
  41. The sow’s nose plunged into the swill,
  42. the tips of her white tallow ears as well.
  43. Splunk! Straight through the brain, suet
  44. and shell. Stunned! Discharge of food,
  45. bran. Twitch of an ear. Potato, carrot,
  46. turnip slab. “Quick. The knife, the pan.”
  47.  
  48. He sliced the throat.
  49. The eye closed over.
  50. Hairy ears stood up, collapsed.
  51. Her blood soured into gelatin.
  52. She had begun to shit.
  53.  
  54. IV
  55. We dragged her
  56. to the block and tackle rig.
  57. We tied her tendons, raised her,
  58. sloshed her up and down.
  59. We shaved her hair,
  60. spun her around, cut off
  61. her feet and knuckles,
  62. hacked off her head,
  63. slashed her belly
  64. from asshole down through
  65. bleached fat throat.
  66. Jewels spilled out
  67. crotches of arteries
  68. fluids danced and ran.
  69.  
  70. We hoisted her
  71. out of dog reach
  72. dumped her entrails
  73. in the snow
  74. left the head
  75. for the dogs to eat —
  76. my mother disliked head-meat.
  77. The liver, steaming monochrome,
  78. quivered with eyes.
  79. We took it home.
  80.  
  81. V
  82. I went to my room.
  83. Tongues licked my neck.
  84. I spread my arms,
  85. threw back my head.
  86. The tendons of a heel
  87. snapped.
  88. What had I lost?
  89. bit bridle rage?
  90.  
  91. Preacher in his pulpit
  92. fiddling, vestments aflame.
  93. He, blazing, stepping down
  94. to me. Hot piss came.
  95. I knelt on the floor,
  96. bent over, head in arms.
  97. Piss washed down, more.
  98. I clasped my loins,
  99. arm crossed over arm.
  100. And I cried
  101. loving my guts,
  102. O vulnerable guts,
  103. guts of creatures.

© Robert Peters. What Dillinger Meant to Me, Seahorse Press, 1983.

Lines on an English Butcher-Shop Window
(Christmas 1966)

  1. O beautiful severed head of hog
  2. O skewered lamb-throat, marble eye of
  3. duck, O meadow-freshened hare
  4. suspended
  5. O lovely unplucked pheasant
  6. ripening in the gloom
  7. O gracious suckling pig upended
  8. O twisted tail erect
  9. and pinkish goudged-out hole
  10. O graceful nub of sow tit, merry xylophone
  11. of fractured ribs
  12. O rib ends smarting where the saw
  13. has severed you
  14. O pleasant rind of fat and rosy spume
  15. along the incision sliced
  16. from genitals to snout
  17.  
  18. O livers tumbling, O clattering
  19. jewel of pancreas and
  20. ligaments of stomach wall
  21. O golden brains emplattered
  22. O calf-groin hacked in two
  23. O carcass spiked, with legs
  24. encased and tied about
  25. with paper, hanging on the wall
  26. O sheep form, severed shoulders,
  27. O ham string of ox,
  28. O whitening lyre,
  29. O steer loin pierced, O haunch,
  30. O ribeage disembowelled
  31. O glorious trays and juices, heaps of
  32. lambhearts, chicken livers,
  33. gizzards, claws
  34. I see you all!

© Robert Peters. The Sow’s Head and Other Poems, Wayne State University Press, 1968.

The Misanthropist: in Imitation of the Ancient Chinese

  1. I’d like to build a house
  2. of bacon strips
  3. suspended from legbones
  4. wired and needled together.
  5. In hot weather the house
  6. will smell delicious.
  7. In winter the wind
  8. will play strong music
  9. on the bones.
  10. On festival days
  11. I’ll hang pig bladders
  12. from the rafters, and beat them.
  13. To visit me
  14. you’ll have to stand outside the door
  15. and go oink, oink.

© Robert Peters. Breughel’s Pig, Illuminati 1989.

About the Poet

Robert Louis Peters, United States, (1924-2014) was a poet, critic, scholar, playwright, editor, and actor. He held a Ph.D. in Victorian literature and his poetry career began in 1967 when his young son died unexpectedly. The book of poetry, Songs for a Son, and was published in 1967 and it still remains in print.

Peter was a prolific poet, having publishing over thirty books of poems. His poetry covers a wide range of themes and forms, from intensely personal or “persona” works and excursions into the psyches of a vast gallery of historical eccentrics.

He also adapted some of his poetry for theatrical presentation and performing these around the United States. Peters was also an important critic of contemporary American poetry with published books of controversial criticism assessing hundreds of contemporary poets and critics.

Additional Information:

Robert Peters, Voices of a Poet

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