the old man carried piglets

It’s the last day of National Poetry Month, and I find looking at a photograph can inspire. Here’s my last one for a while. Probably.


The old man carried piglets in his arms

under his armpits, actually

like two plump packages filled with

good things, they

squealed obediently, smelling

of earth and excrement, they

squealed curling and uncurling their

pink pig-tails, knowing

that the old farmer loved them

that a field of purple flowers was

waiting, patiently like a lover

the man walked many miles, or

what felt like many miles

(for what does a pig know

of distance

more than from sty to trough)

so he walked many miles, this man

setting one foot after the other, squish squash

squish squashing into the moistness

below his feet, and the pigs

snorted happily, short gruff grunts

as if they had just eaten a plate

full of scraps, short gruff grunts

confident that there would be lilacs

at the end of their journey, so sure

of his love, so sure of his love

he clutched them tightly around their middles

and they felt warm and safe

beneath the dark wool that made up his sweater

home, and they squealed

as he entered with them still

under his arms, still

not struggling, still believing

ever faithful

as he sliced off their heads

one, two

for his sweet sausage stew.

Have you ever experienced betrayal? Felt like someone was cutting your head off for their delight?

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41 thoughts on “the old man carried piglets

  1. I’m not sure about the betrayal thing. But I’m also not sure about the farmer’s delight. Here, when you buy a farmyard chicken, it’s plucked for you, and the head is still there, unplucked but attached to the body. I find myself in some way paying my respects to this head, giving thanks for this life which has ended simply so we could eat good food. I’m surprised at how much more this chicken means to me: how I work to extract every ounce of goodness from it: several meals of good chunks of meat in some carefully chosen recipe, risotto and so forth from the scraps, and finally, a wonderful broth from the carcass. I find I owe it to her to benefit in every way we can from her sacrificed life. I’m guessing the farmer may have felt like that about his pigs. You know what they say: ‘you can use every bit of the pig but the squeal’.

    1. Margaret: That’s what I was getting at. This is not really a poem about the farmer. It from the perspective from the piggy who has no idea what’s coming, of course. But yes, I’ve found farmers to be the most respectful of life. They understand the whole cycle, how precious it is. And by the way, I’m not big on the pig, so it’s kind of funny that this photo inspired me so much. But it did. I’ve had the photograph for over two decades. The photographer gave it to me. He had tons of quirky images featuring people and animals. I don’t remember his name, though I have searched high and low.

  2. Betrayal. It’s a cliché, of course, but it would have to be during my two divorces, for different reasons in each, but betrayals nonetheless. And they hurt. Enough said.

  3. I knew where this was eventually going, even as I hoped it wouldn’t. Because that’s where I would have gone too, haha! Great poem, Renee 🙂

  4. The line that stood out –for what does a pig know

    of distance–which is telling for me. I can be kind of gullible and so betrayal is definitely not a foreign thing to me. So easy to feel like that simple, happy, plump, trusting pig–and then it all goes dark.
    You got my brain wheels a turning, Renee. 🙂

    1. Oh Coleen! Yes! And thank you. Because that is the crux of it. I tend to be very trusting, sometimes too trusting, and Lord knows, I’ve been hurt. I’m trying to learn to be more discerning…and not just head straight to the slaughter.

      Let’s try to hold each other up to the light, yes?

  5. Poor piggies. I think my sister had the same reaction when our friend’s mom asked us what we wanted for dinner and we answered “chicken.” She sent us into the yard to pick out the one we wanted…she had a bunch of free range chickens running around. When she chopped the head off and let it run, my brother and I found the headless chicken kind of funny… My sister, traumatized, raced back up the stairs crying. She still has trouble eating chicken with bones.

  6. I got a different twist of this photo.
    Look at that BIG pig.
    Look at all the MEDIUM pigs.
    Look at the BABY pigs.
    Look at the ONLY man.
    Together they are whole.
    Loving a Good and HAPPY life.
    The End.

    1. Didn’t mean to loop you. It just happened. Here it is all Springtime and pretty — and I got all dark. And stew-ishy. Thanks for bopping by. Good luck with your broadcast. I’m going to try soooo hard to make it. It’s a weird time for our family.

  7. Eeeek noooo! Renée, I was loving that dude and his piggies and then … sniffle. Oh – and for making me feel the way I did … ? You are such a clever writer. *tapping fingers* *waiting for the book*

  8. I have indeed felt just this way with certain members of my family of origin. Maybe why I no longer open the sty door for them….

    Lovely poem. All the way through.

  9. Well, as much as I tried to think of a ‘serious’ comment and answer to your questions, I couldn’t get past my immediate thoughts and response, so here it is….a little on the light side:

    “Squealing pigs/piglets” or screaming monkeys as we might also describe the wonderful auditory echoes, all of them “obedient”, evoke several role-playing scenes I and others have thoroughly enjoyed! Betrayal? Oh, most definitely! In most delicious ways!

    Sorry, Renee. I tried to stay serious but “squealing pigs/piglets” always stimulate my dark sinister side. LOL

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