Hatcher, John Southall

United States, (contemporary)

Pig Song

  1. Si yo creyera que mi repuesta sería
  2. a persona que pudiera hablar con el agricultor,
  3. este cerdito nunca más charlaría;
  4. pero, porque tu no puedes convencerle de
  5. que un cerdo ha hablado contigo,
  6. voy a decite unas cosas en confianza.
  8. — Juan Valdez de Santa Toledo
  2. Let us go then, you and I,
  3. where the field yields to the sty
  4. like a “See Rock City” poster on a stable;
  5. let us go through certain half-erected roosts
  6. where some ducklings or a goose
  7. speaks of sleepless nights in one-perch cheep chicken pens
  8. and barnyards swept with sins;
  9. roosts that reek with stale fowl smell
  10. and birds pell mell
  11. that make you want to yell some swelling question…
  12. come on, now, ask me, “What is it?”
  13. No?… well, let’s take a walk.
  15. In the sty they come and go
  16. speaking of the rodeo.
  18. The moist hay odor drifts along the gutters,
  19. the green smell that steps up and mutters,
  20. licks my back in the corners where it itches,
  21. lingers among the trough and sputters,
  22. passes through the farmer’s kitchen who,
  23. thinking his wife fast asleep at last,
  24. reads lewd magazines to escape her bitching.
  26. And indeed there will be time
  27. to tell you of the smell that glides along the grass
  28. and drifts along the gutters;
  29. There will be time, there will be time
  30. to make a squeak to greet the squealers I will meet;
  31. and time for all the playful things
  32. with all the luscious treats to swallow;
  33. time for you and time for me,
  34. and time yet for a hundred incisions
  35. and for a hundred divisions
  36. and being served with toast and tea.
  38. In the sty they come and go
  39. speaking of the rodeo.
  41. And indeed there will be time
  42. to blurt out, “Eat a peach!” or “Eat a pear!”
  43. Time to slide into the mud kersplat
  44. like falling in a jello vat.
  45. (The roosters will say, “My, his legs are getting fat!”)
  47. My double chin, my rounding rump
  48. my shoulders bulging in a clump
  49. (The ducks will mutter, “But how his belly is getting plump!”)
  50. Do I dare
  51. Get up from the mud?
  52. In a minute there is time
  53. a for incisions and divisions to make a ham of stud.
  55. No! I am not a fierce wild boar, nor was meant to be;
  56. am an old stud hog, one that will do
  57. to swell a sow, start a litter or two,
  58. no doubt with an easy tool,
  59. deferential, glad to be of use,
  60. chubby, stout, ridiculous,
  61. full of pounds, but a bit obtuse;
  62. at times, indeed, almost obscene —
  63. almost, at times, a piggy bank.
  65. I grow round… I grow round…
  66. I shall be measured pound for pound.
  68. Shall I venture to the trough, do I dare to stuff with starches?
  69. I shall dine on low-cal tubers and go on diet marches.
  70. I have heard the farmers talking each to each.
  71. I hope they will not come for me.
  72. I have seen them riding their large white mares,
  73. combing the white-haired mane for the fair
  74. where the judges weigh and then compare.
  76. We have lingered in the corners of the pen,
  77. amid the mire, slime, and swill strewn through the sty
  78. Till human voices “So o o o ey!” and we die.

Pig Thoughts at Noon

  1. a vegetarian stroked at noon behind my ears
  2. mumbled about my being bred for death (his pun),
  3. but his thoughts were elsewhere
  5. among feathers, furs,
  6. rare flaming symmetry
  7. and outspread wings, not me;
  9. for though my soul dwells beyond swift stallions
  10. and above the tree-couched cat
  11. I am groomed for termination
  12. and no one mourns my passing.
  14. He means well, I suppose —
  15. my friend the vegetarian —
  16. but when he tries to find comparisons for me
  17. his mind wanders to the puma, the cheetah, the jaguar
  18. (the sum of whose lifetime thoughts
  19. I could formulate on one hoof);
  21. socratically he tries to penetrate
  22. my crude surfaces
  23. but is stopped by the shadows of things:
  25. he cannot caress my short hair, bulk, snout,
  26. cannot remove himself from reflexive imagery —
  27. the stuck pig still squeals
  28. no pearls are cast before me
  29. I am symbol for greed and
  30. things remote from godliness
  31. forbidden as vile to some
  32. but devoured at every part
  33. feet, brains, joints, entrails.
  35. So it is that I
  36. become each of you
  37. and am your metaphor —
  38. what you seek as you peek behind the surfaces,
  39. for who has sensed the nobility in my pig heart
  40. and has caught the glint in my eyes
  41. can ponder the beginning of the universe
  42. and probe the heart of man.

© John Southall Hatcher, Used with permission.
From: The Hog Book. by William Hedgepeth, New York: Doubleday 1978. Drawings by John Findley; photographs by Al Clayton. Long out of print, this classic of “porcine potential” was re-issued by the University of Georgia Press in 1998.

About the Poet

John Southall Hatcher, US poet and author, Professor of English Literature at the University of South Florida, associate editor of the Journal of Bahá’í Studies and a member of the Executive Board of the Association for Bahá’í Studies at the Wilmette Institute.

Hatcher’s Published works include poetry, novels, and numerous scholarly articles, monographs and chapters in books edited by others. For more on John S. Hatcher see his commentary on “The Mighty Anglo-Saxon Hog Uprising” also in the Best Loved Pig Poetry section. [DES-6/03]

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