Miracle of the River Pig

by Jennifer Givhan

      —behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea,
            and perished in the waters.
Animals (like women) are cast in leading roles in plays of superstition. One story, if an observant countryman is right, has as plot the alleged inability of a pig to swim. Her sharp trotters swing — so the story goes — in circular motion in the water till she cuts her own throat. This, the countryman cheerfully claims, did not happen to a sow who, awaiting her litter and finding her sty flooded, patiently swam round it unharmed until rescue arrived.
Either help me — 
or cast me out, Sweet Jesus.

I met him coming from the tombs.
Violent men always turn me mealy-squealy;
the rack & screw
bring on the gristle in pristine — 
vaulted castles, brined swine
unwedding my mistake.
Call the priests, I’m burning,
I’m evaporating,
I’m pouring unsanctioned milk from unleashed tits — 
I’m a sin, a stain, a bray in the hay,
send some boys to piss on me,
make me pay — 
Baptize me till
I’m clean & free & with you wholly
chomp me between your fucking teeth — 
My almost-mother-in-law served me pigs’ feet on a plate — 
her son, my insanity,
my love — y mi diablo
& I, his evil porcine brewing
in the sopa de pat
slow-simmered pigs’ feet soup.

Years ago a young porker fell into an old bramble-covered well. The water level was, I don’t know, some 10 ft. down, the water deep. It took us half an hour to borrow a ladder and come back. She was still swimming round and round. The well mouth was too narrow for a man to go down there after all, but then we saw that she-pig had her forelegs over one rung, her snout under the rung above. We raised that ladder up slow. The pig held on until she reached the top and we hefted her up. Then she shook herself, grunted, and trotted off—her throat unscratched and utterly unperturbed.
The boy I met at the swine barns
fucked me in the piss-yellow straw.
I sucked a dick in the front seat while the pigs barked
near the dump on the northern tip of town.
There’s the cemetery where I will not be buried.
(Will my ex-fisher king be scattered at sea? — 
I will not join him, I, ex-fisher queen, ex voto,
ex-girlfriend, ex madness).
My sweet rolls,
color me a memory, an unlit candle,
brindle me backward,
toward the bordertown. Cane me. Sweet tea me.
At the fairgrounds,
some little piggy’s losing her virginity, 
her sanity,
strung in a bedroom doorway.
 — Selves like iridescent, shining, speckled
shit in the Río Nuevo
frothy foaming stinking desert river
desert in the new world — 
how old were you? fifteen & blessed as 
Santa María,
I’m that lucky pig in the river — 
cut my trotters,
strike my blue-butt,
handle me,
sell me at auction,
devour me.
Bruja y de la chingada
slap my ass
pinch my nipples
flay my skin, dip me in chile & eat me
a treat
even better
pigs in a blanket — 
this little piggy went down to the river to drown her baby
this little piggy never came home
this little piggy slit her own throat, a fish-hooked embryo
Down the river did glide with wind and with tide,
  A pig with vast celerity;
And the devil looked wise as he saw how the while,
It cut its own throat.


His mother eats pigs’ feet
       dried & deep fried
con chile & limón — 
       my demons in them.
Another example of a swimming pig was witnessed in 1946 during the testing of the Atom-bomb on the Bikini atoll. A total of 3,352 animals were placed around the test site to gauge the effects on creatures at various proximities to the detonation. Pig 311 was seen swimming calmly in the sea after the explosion and was duly rounded up and sent to Washington's Zoological Park where she led a normal existence with no outward signs of radiation sickness except infertility.
Mom bought my white communion dress,
wafer on my tongue,
uneven socks & curlicues like piggy tails,
white papal smoke
up the river channel to little caves,
white, potbellied river stones — 
I’ve been re-formed from a failed levee,
a desert flood that re-created the Salton Sea,
its unnatural river flow, its farming runoff, leaky
discharge, dumping
wastewater stench — 
I’m on the fence, I’m border trash, I’m a glowing fish a radiant transgression,
I’m unsanitary,
little piggy swimming
& the devil inside me.
There was no sign of any kind that its throat had been cut. In fact, it was quite lively when being returned to its pen.
Maquiladoras y panaderias (how sweet my belly, my pan dulce)
pay tribute to my glove & aprons, discarded tires, trash, dead animal channels,
sweet little piggy, swim — 
blow foam into Calexico streets & downtown, mosquito my open windows,
boil my wounds
(I’m a disease)
 — in my potbelly
simmer me
sex me
leave me
to summer heat
singe me to my pen — 

Jennifer Givhan was a Pen Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow, as well as the DASH 2013 Poetry Prize winner, a St. Lawrence Book Award finalist and a Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways finalist for her poetry collection Red Sun Mother, and an Andres Montoya Poetry Prize finalist for her collection Karaoke Night at the Asylum. Givhan was chosen for inclusion in Best New Poets 2013 by Brenda Shaughnessy. She attends the MFA program at Warren Wilson College with a fellowship, and her work has appeared in over sixty literary journals and anthologies, including Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Rattle, Cutthroat, and The Los Angeles Review. She teaches composition at Western New Mexico University. You can visit Givhan online at her website. Her favorite fruit is Frida Kahlo’s pitahaya.

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