Sunday, September 20, 2015

Animals are Passing from our Lives -- Philip Levine (1972)

"That poem celebrates the quality of digging in your heels. Even the little pig will not do things the way people expect him to. He's going to die his own way. There's a lot of abuse being heaped on the culture that's taking him to his death. Even though he knows he's dying for an appalling society, he's not going to beg for his life. They're not going to make a pig out of him. They call him a pig, they treat him like a pig, they'll kill him like a pig, but he's going to act with more dignity than a human being." -- Philip Levine, from an interview with David Remnick (Michigan Quarterly Review, 1980).

It's wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.

I'm to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers

that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,

suffering the consumers
who won't meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes

that any moment I'll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife

discovering television,
or that I'll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.

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