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We Had Seen a Pig

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1

One man held the huge pig down
and the other stuck an ice pick
into the jugular, which is when
we started to pay attention.
The blood rose ten feet with force
while the sow swam on its back
as if to cut its own neck.
Its fatty back smacked the slippery
cement while the assassins shuffled
to keep their balance, and the bloody
fountain rose and fell back and rose
less and less high, until
the red plume reentered the pig
at the neck, and the belly collapsed
and the pig face went dull.

2

I knew the pig
was the butcher’s, whose game
lived mainly behind our garage.
Sometimes turkeys, always
roosters and sheep. Once the windmill
turned two days without stopping.
The butcher would walk in his apron
straight for the victim. The others
would scratch and babble
and get in the way.
Then the butcher would lead the animal
to the back door of his shop,
stopping to kill it on a stump.
It was always evening, after closing.
The sea breeze would be rising,
cloaking the hour in brine.

3

The pig we saw slaughtered
was more than twice anything
shut up in the patch
we trespassed to make havoc.
Since the butcher was Italian,
not Jewish, that would be his pig.
Like the barber who carried
a cigar box of bets
to the stationery store, like
the Greek who made sweets
and hid Greek illegals,
immigrant “submarines,”
the butcher had a business, his
business, by which he took
from our hands the cleaver and serrated
knife for the guts,
and gave us back in butcher paper
and outer layers of brown wrapping
our lives for their cries.

4

Hung up to drain, the great pig,
hacked into portions,
looked like a puzzle
we could put together in the freezer
to make a picture of
a pig of course, a map, clothes or other things
when we looked.
Marvin Bell, “We Had Seen a Pig” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)
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We Had Seen a Pig

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