Monday, May 27, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs by Ken Bolton

Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs 

Pig Farming. Methods Of
was a book I wrote in 1945
tho what I knew then of
pig farming you may wonder.  It is
a human enough activity.
I mean ‘universal’—did they have
pigs on Easter Island, the New Guinea
highlands, did the Maori?  Virgil
knew about pigs, tho I associate him, more,
with bees, my Latin education centering
on a limited number of texts—
bits of Caesar’s Gallic Wars
or Punic Wars (“Carthage delenda est”?)—
& not much else.  Virgil.  Ideas of
pig farming might be innate. (?)
Where do correct ideas come from?
“The head, boss.”  Pigs pretty much
know what they want (isn’t that
often thought to be the problem,
the thing held against them?),
give it to them.  “Long pig” was somehow
special dark knowledge when I was
a schoolboy, I mean the term.
A human dish.  (No one else ate it,
except the odd lion or tiger—
as a one-off: humans also
protect their own—better probably not
to eat them too often.)  But, to return
to the term, “long pig” implies knowledge
of “pig plain” sure enough.  It seemed
insulting, to me, back then—to the idea
of the human & humanity & I didn’t like
to utter it.  I remember once
someone telling me of an abandoned
hippy farm where they’d been producing
heroin.  The pigs were fed
on scraps & excrement
& were squealing.  Addicted.
Apparently the noise was horrible.  I did,
at some time, sleep near where a pig
—or pigs—squealed all night. I can’t remember
now whether it was simply very affecting
or whether it was specifically because it sounded
human.  It was loud, incessant & frightened.
I can’t remember where or when.  An
abattoir.  In 1945
I had not read Virgil.  I do know that.
It seems we’ve passed this way before.  In
‘another life’ I may have been a pig farmer:
I see me, late at night at a plain kitchen table
writing Pig Farming, Methods Of.  It’s
electric light—tho it could do with a stronger
bulb.  I write it in a child’s school exercise book.
My only daughter has died?  It’s hers, hardly used,
& I turn it round & start at the back?—or maybe
continue right on from where she left off.
She had been studying & had written amo, amas,
amat etc.  The vocabulary list begins with
“agricola”—farmer.  As I see it the farmer
does not become especially sentimental about
the exercise book.  He may have done, must
have done, at some time since his daughter’s death,
but now he writes.  Perhaps he writes with
extra care because it is her book.  Perhaps he writes
because it is her book.  He has not written
anything else before.  He writes now
because she is gone.  She was the future
& he was content to work to see her through—
to her adult life.  But now she is gone
he must make something else.  He is a widower.
I was brought up by my own father,
alone, me & my sister.  We kept dogs & cats
& pigeons, a horse.  No pigs.  Anyway,
there it is, & it has my name on it, 1945—Pig Farming,
Methods Of.

And here is another poem from Ken's Selected Poems put out by Shearsman Books. 
Below the link to the press in case you wish to invest in a copy. There is much to amaze
in this handsome book.


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