Priest, Robert

Canada, (b. 1951)

The Little Pig of Self-Respect

The little pig of self-respect got away from General Li Tu. It ran greased and squealing through the populace as the soldiers tried to catch it, leaving the general with a pig-shaped space suddenly missing from his heart. Immediately the weasels of remorse began to burrow in, looking for that absence. Hedgehogs of guilt and bloodfish of anguish long held at bay sucked their way along his veins, up through the marrow, all looking for that small shivering pig-space, to live in its emptiness, to take up residence in its vacated temple – the general, left writhing, sweating on the bed, beset by terrible visions, knowing there was no more pig-space inside, just a crammed banquet hall full of ravenous mice, and gorged weasels toasting each other with his blood. No more pig-space in the soul! Afterward, when the little pig of self-respect was dragged back to him, crying and squealing, he had nowhere left inside himself to put it. He had to wear it, stitched down, over his shoulders, like a kind of pink epaulette.

© Robert Priest. How to Swallow a Pig. Toronto: ECW Press (2004).

The Pig Who Discovered Happiness

The pig who discovered happiness didn’t tell anyone, not even the other pigs. It just lived a life of perfect glee dancing in meadows like a lamb, scooting up trees to sing from branches out of sight – completely happy pig. And not a stupid pig by any means. This pig knew what was coming, but even that didn’t affect its delight. It could have been an historic pig if it liked – a Leif Eriksson of pigs, a Columbus of pigs, and yet it remained a pig that never once tried to reveal its happiness to other pigs. This would only have decreased its happiness. This would have involved it in endless arguments. Better to be quiet and happy, the pig thought. And so, if bad weather befell, if tragedy struck, still that pig could be gleeful. And even at the very end, as it was marched to the abattoir, with all the others squealing and shrieking with fear, even then this pig kept quiet the great secret of its happiness. Not until it realized that its time was coming – not until it knew its own happiness would at last be ended did it attempt to tell the others. As they strung it up by the foot to slit its throat, it began to shriek in its high pig voice, letting out, alas, too late, that long-held and, by then, unintelligible formula.

© Robert Priest. How to Swallow a Pig. Toronto: ECW Press (2004).

How to Swallow a Pig

Because of the shape of its face, a pig is actually one of the easiest animals to swallow whole.* Still, pig-swallowing is a very difficult and potentially dangerous activity. If you have advance notice, a certain amount of jaw-stretching and lip- widening prior to the event is always helpful. Your greatest enemy is self-doubt. You have to look at the pig’s head and tell yourself that you can do this. Once you have greased the pig, begin by letting the fine tapered end of the snout proceed through your lips. The first obstacle, if it is not the back of your throat, will likely be your front teeth. Unfortunately these will have to be broken off. This clears the way for the full face-taper of the pig snout to zero in on your gullet. You have to be thinking “outrage” when this begins to happen for it is entirely violating and painful. But your throat can take it. Allow the gorge to widen as though it were a fluid, thinner with each stretch. You throat is a powerful python, infinitely elastic and accommodating. Once the entire pig head has squeezed by your gag reflex and entered your gorge you are fully committed. You will not be able to vomit out the pig safely. Nor can you wait long to continue, for at this time your trachea is entirely blocked by the pig’s head. You are unable to breathe. Do not panic. Do not attempt to gasp or retch. Concentrate on swallowing. Having the wideness of the pig’s bulky shoulders in your once narrow throat is perhaps the most violating thing you will ever experience. But you can do this. Just tell yourself: this is possible. Swallow and stretch. Keep your lower jaw loose to prevent the bone from snapping at the hinge. Suck with your guts. Use your lower diaphragm to draw the fat pig ever further down the gullet. Let your thick and lucent saliva lubricate the way. Saturating the pig with your juices will allow the celiated gorge to usher the pig deeper and deeper into your being. You may now need a friend with a stick to stuff in the pig’s back end. This is the most crucial period. You will have been without oxygen for quite some time. You are probably blue in the face, but if you can widen to your most extreme limit, your throat cracking like wet bark, you will be able to slide your blue lips over the bare buttocks and with the last kick of the back trotters, the curl of the pig’s tail will be gone. The entire pig is in your throat. Your intestines are stretching. Peristalsis has begun. The glottis is finally released and the first, terrible new breath can come with a gasp. You’ve lived! You’ve swallowed the whole pig. And now that it’s entirely in your stomach you have to ask yourself: Is this not a most familiar feeling? Is this not the greatest feeling on earth?

* It is also one of the easiest animals to shove up the anus. This is not recommended for reasons of hygiene.

© Robert Priest. How to Swallow a Pig. Toronto: ECW Press (2004).

The Surrealist Air Force

For some reason the item in the universe most amenable to longdistance accuracy is the pig. A two-tonne pig, when it is hurled from the sky, breaks open in a great gush, That’s why we are dropping the pigs, dropping the pigs. All our swine production goes into this. No one eats bacon. Every drop of pig’s blood is for your country. A man loves his pig but it’s just a bag of blood for the war effort. Voleneed your pig! One of mil1ions to drop squealing. But then a two-tonne pig hits a mosque. The entire Arab world is outraged. It has been claimed that the pigs were strategic, accurate, state of the art. But an entire neighbourhood is killed by falling pigs. They threaten to drop Chef. There is a massive protest. All around the world people march to stop them from dropping Cher. They say, “No decisions have yet been made about dropping Cher,” Then they drop Chef. She falls screaming, “if I could turn back time.” They threaten to drop Madonna. There are suggestions they may drop Mariah Carey. She will fall doing the high note. They are dropping comedians over glass houses now. How they shriek. How they wail. We are losing at least a celebrity a day to this insane war. All you have to do is hand over Elvis and we will go away. We have the right to protect ourselves from Elvis. They drop blue fish, spring-loaded bibles to nip our nuts. To snap our vaginas shut. They drop broken clocks, blood magnets, poisoned crosses, Pope hats with fire alarms. Down with the elephants. The whales. How the mighty tigers fall, those great claws useless in the naked air. How the jellyfish sail. How the household dogs plummet. From a mile up, a falling cat can kill. Babies – burst open, limbs askew, broken on the barricades, spattered on the training places, smeared on tanks – 5000 bombers, a thousand times a day, so that no area of the city is left untouched. So that the sky is never empty of falling babies. Babies away! Pre-frozen babies never touched but for this one shove. Stiff blue babies who bang like bells and split open in agony when they hit the ground. Starved babies with explosions in their eyes. We are dropping the preemies, Missiles full of quints. Launching the sextuplets. But we’re falling behind in baby production. We are fucking like mad trying to keep up with the bloodbath. We need more babies. Have you considered having a baby? Uncle Spain needs you — to have a baby.

© Robert Priest. How to Swallow a Pig. Toronto: ECW Press (2004).

About the Poet:

Robert Priest (b. 1951) is a British born Canadian poet, playwright, song-writer, novelist and
children’s author. Priest has written fourteen books of poetry, two children’s novels, 3 children’s albums, 4 CDs of songs and poems and won the Milton Acorn Memorial People’s Poetry Award for The Mad Hand (1988).

In his alias as Dr. Poetry, he wrote and performed thirteen segments for CBC radio’s spoken-word show Wordbeat. He is well known for his aphorisms and his hit song: “Instead of a Kiss” which he co-wrote with rock musician Alannah Myles.

His adult poetry is wide-ranging and much praised while his children’s poetry is more tender, underpinned with a utopian hopefulness.

The Toronto Star has called Priest “passionate, cocky, alternately adoring and insulting.” Priest’s plays, novels and songs, have earned him not only awards and recognition in Canadian literary circles but a growing reader/listenership world wide.

Priest also has over twenty years experience as a teacher of writing for people of all ages as both a playwright/writer-in-residence and an instructor in creative writing courses in primary and secondary schools and universities throughout Canada and Britain and the United States. [DES-07/14]

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