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Castrating the Pigs

Text of Poem

It always seemed to be a rainy day
when we cut the little boar pigs.
The warm humid June air soaked up
the smells of hogs, manure, sour breath
of the slop barrel, it all stunk.
Father used a special knife shaped
like a half moon, honed on a whetstone
until it would shave the fine hairs
on his arm. The pigs, two or three
weeks old still penned with their mothers,
squealed when we boys grabbed them
and leaped out of the pen just ahead
of the chomping jaws of the mother sow.
The hired man held them by their hind legs,
spread them apart, Father squeezed the
scrotum to make the skin tight, made
two quick slits with the knife and out
popped the testicles like small eyeballs.
He tossed them over the gate into the
alleyway where our collie dog feasted.
Once in awhile, not often, Father
cut into a ruptured pig and its small
guts boiled up. Father gently pushed
them back and carefully sewed up the
wound with Mother’s darning needle
and stout black thread. They always
healed, I never knew one to be infected.
It was a day to get past, hot, stinking,
clouds of dust where the sows barked and
churned up their bedding, pigs squealing,
men shouting, blood-stained overalls.
We boys kept our heads down, ashamed
to be so ruthless in cheating nature.
It wasn’t funny to us when the hired man
winked and said, ‘‘They’ll never know
what they missed.’’ We felt our own
manhood threatened as if strong hands
reached out to rob us.

First Line
It always seemed to be a rainy day
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
Poetry Now 5.4 Issue 28 (1980) 34.
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