Science Poem of the Week (5)

By Josie Glausiusz | November 20, 2006 6:00 pm

I was about six years old when I first saw a living pig. It was at the Brent Show, an autumn festival that annually brought the joys of the countryside to my neighborhood in north-west London, turning a local park into a muddy swamp as the crowds trampled the grass in the rain. (It always rained.) The pig was penned in a row with an array of other farm animals, and it fascinated me: it was large, grey and lumpen and lay unstirring in mucky puddle. I now think it must have been very bored. Though sorely maligned as slovenly, slothful and greedy, pigs are in fact highly intelligent and resourceful foragers, and, as Galway Kinnell reminds us in Saint Francis And The Sow, are also creatures of great beauty. The poem is reprinted here with kind permission of the poet, who can be heard reading it at Imagine Nature, a collection compiled by the American Museum of Natural History.

Saint Francis And The Sow
By Galway Kinnell


The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Note: Galway Kinnell is the author of 11 volumes of poetry, including Strong Is Your Hold (2006); A New Selected Poems (2001) (a finalist for the National Book Award); Imperfect Thirst (1996); The Book of Nightmares (1973), and a children’s book, How the Alligator Missed Breakfast (1982.) Social justice, animals and nature form strong themes in his work. “If you could keep going deeper and deeper,” he has said, “‘you’d finally not be a person … you’d be a blade of grass or ultimately perhaps a stone. And if a stone could read poetry would speak for it.”

For another lovely prose ode to a pig, see The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, (Ballantine Books, 2006) by Sy Montgomery, whose musings on animals, including tarantulas and sperm whales, have appeared in her many features and reviews for DISCOVER.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science Poem of the Week
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