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The barn’s warm breath
smelled of pigs, straw, dust,
fresh manure. The night wind
rattled doors, poked fingers
under sills. The sow heaved and
grunted. He waited for an end
to waiting, the sow stretched
at his feet, her swollen belly
heaving. He reached into her
with two clumsy fingers, felt
tiny sharp toes not yet in this
world, tried to grasp them but
they slipped back. He shrugged off
his gunny sack shawl, ready to help.
He burned a match along a wire
with a loop and sharp hook.
Gently, tenderly, slowly he
inserted the hook and locked it
into the jaw of the unborn pig.
His finger in the loop he pulled
in time with the sow’s labor,
brought the first pig through the
door to the outside. He watched
six more come kicking out
of their shells. A ray of light
shaped the window, shadows are born old.
The pigs rooted the sow’s nipples,
if there was more meaning than that
he was too tired to care.

First Line
The barn's warm breath
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
Snake in the Strawberries (1979) 12.
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A ray of light / shaped the window, shadows are born old.