• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 10
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Ground(l)ing

Tooting Leisure Centre.
The pool.
I was 12.
A Saturday afternoon unfolding under a vague sky.
Squeals bouncing between the walls.
Roguish dads turning themselves into tight bombs for thrilling splashes.
'Games' more vicious than playful.
Best to avoid the sharking packs of teenagers. Wide berth.
The very real threat of verrucas again.
Armbands like strange florescent growths.
Yelps floated high above us; became stretched, were suspended just below stinging bright lighting.
Me, my 'girlfriend' and her three, assured pals. Multi-coloured braces across their teeth.
Splashing.
Me, in Donald Duck swimming shorts (ironic or earnest? Mum-purchased or me-purchased?)
Squealing.
All of us, all five of us doing a good job of pretending not to be frightened by our own green, slippery, unpredictable bodies.
Dunking.
Bubbling.
Bubbling and water up your nose is a Bunsen burner's upright flame.
A Saturday. I was 12.
I drowned.


*

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1

Heat(wave) to the Pig

Damp-snouted, bristle-cheeked, bewhiskered king,
You bask in water, clad yourself in mud
To hide your hide from Sunshine's cruel sting,
And seek out shade to cool your boiling blood.
Of lakes and rivers, mountain fjords you dream.
With dexterous nose for cool respite you snuffle
To seek out oceans, tributaries, streams;
Each wet delight a sweet aqueous truffle
Enticing you to cool yourself. Sweet swine,
Despite the torture of this heat, tormenting
You, your dignity and majesty remain,
Not cowed at all by fetid air fermenting.
Take care, dear pig, lest porcine flesh be taken
By Sunshine's callous hand, and rendered bacon.

2

AFTERSTORY

The popular narrative:     you rescued me
from the ocean’s churn. Though I’ve always told
my own version.     How many eons later? Now
every goddess saves herself.     Here, where we’re not

earth queen and mighty boar.     Today your eyes
say you’re afraid to be sick. The sun, so angry.
There are only a few tales     fated to be retold
in a million different ways, even my rendition

of our elsewhere chronicle. There’s also
this afterstory:     here, you pass by the house
every day and we don’t speak;     until one day, the earth
reels in the heat and you look faint;     and here

where I, Bhumi from another time, have no miracles
to perform     I let you inside my lotus pond
and only your snout takes the air;     later, as Surya
sinks into the horizon, I set a meal before you –

two pounds of barley cooked with peas and sorrel
leaves; I add chunks of lotus stem fried in ghee
remembering how you loved the extra crunch; and finally,
on top, pink petals from the calm-inducing flower.

3

Inflatable Hamburgers

Jana always looks for the dead bug on her walk down to town; the dung beetle, brown, shiny and armoured. It was lying on its desiccated back when she first saw it, useless legs stuck in the air. She had flipped it over yesterday. Today it had vanished. She thought it might be an omen.

At the beach, she had counted four inflatable hamburgers in the sea, two doughnuts with sprinkles, one watermelon and one slice of cheesy pizza. What was this obsession with floating food? Dolphins, seagulls would be better, crocodiles, for all she cared. Why did people float on imitations of what was drifting in the sea anyway – human waste, plastic? Most were occupied by teenage girls, in Ray-bans and bikinis, their nails done. They were not swimming, not even trying. Their inflatable pieces of food were accessories. She tried hard to imagine what they saw through their black lenses; to see the beauty they looked like they were experiencing, or so their Insta smiles suggested.

She had got a headache and sought refuge in the only air-conditioned supermarket café that did surprisingly good pastries for a low price. She was tired from lying awake at night, scratching her mosquito bites. It was much too hot to sleep. She read the news in the local paper, occasionally googling a word she didn’t know. A mother had almost thrown her son from the fifth floor to save him from being burned alive in their flat. The nieghbours had shouted up over the flames, ‘Don’t throw him! Don’t throw him! The fire brigade is almost here!’ but she hadn’t heard them. In the end her son only suffered mild smoke inhalation but she had to be airlifted to a clinic on the mainland with 59 per cent burns to her body. Four young people had died in a car crash; ages 18, 19, 19 and 27. One of the 19-year-olds had just bought his first car.

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4

Piggate

Men of power in steel-blue suits
We think we can expose their truths
With smears and anecdotes
Perhaps an Oxford man, perhaps Eton,
It doesn’t matter which
Morality, dignity, humanity, empathy,
The steel-blue, crisp-ironed fibres
Deflect them all the same
Assault captured on film won’t cut it
Like they cut the poor and the disabled
Now they hire those who look like us
But do not represent us
To make their dirty work more palatable
While fussing over imperial measurements
The word too familiar to their beloved Empire
That had my grandparents leave whole villages behind
Rifts my future generations will still have to heal
Talking about British values
When they never had to just get by
Talking about British values
While the homeless sleep in the rain
Talking about British values
Stoking hate against those that built this country’s name
And we march and we protest
To come home to our neighbours cracking our windows
Stealing welcome doormats to say we are unwelcome
But when I say my humanity is not debatable
I’m too loud, too aggressive, too uncivil.

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5

Appearances Kept Up

Dare call me unclean:
I'm the sunniest burden
back home on the farm.

I will have you know
my snout has graced porcelain:
broken cups thrown down

into the red clay;
I snuffled them out with ease,
know style when it's seen.

Like the turquoise here,
the way it blends with yellow
from the August sun,

that's the same colour
as the farmer's old saucers,
hauled from the sixties.

He would have pooled out
his brew into the hallow,
letting it cool down,

knowing that increased
surface area can allow
more heat to escape;

then, with a big sluuuurp,
he'd drain the saucer, much like
myself at the trough.

Read more >
6

Fat Floats

Sweet swine, serendipitous swimmer,
survivor of the butt-end of jokes –
I salute your courage. In the face of
Inevitable death, you rise above
and roll around in the mess of it,
then lollygag in the sun while that mud
dries to a crisp crust. Life has always
been a trough filled with leftovers
and you gobble gratefully. We complain
about the bitterness were handed,
overeat in disgrace. You wallow
in every bit of it, make the best
of what you can. Wait to come clean
later in the redeeming stream of heaven.

7

Little Piggy

This little piggy went to market
Down on the southern coast
Brimmed in the salty ocean
So he would be moister than most
His fat had been turned into muscle
Swimming the way that he did
The farmer had thought this a great way
To increase the final cost bid

8

Paradise?

As above, so below:
A landscape of white-surfed limbs
Supporting continental flanks
Wallowing in the depths
Daring you to drop
Your snout in the trough
Join the gravy train, the brain drain
Believe the lame claim
That over here, the sky is bluer
The grass is greener
The water cleaner

This is fake news
False dues
Our distillation of truth
These soundbite porky pies
Lies carved to feed the hungry
Giving you something
To get your teeth into
So you see what we want you to see
Something to ‘Like’
Whilst in reality
We are all pigs rolling in muck
But if you look into our eyes
Do you see yourself reflected?

9

Pig Fatra

From the oldest line of domesticated pig
I yearn for my forebears' mud baths and swill.

From the oldest line of domesticated pig
I am spotted, was farrowed somewhere between

Gloucester and Halesowen but find myself stuck
in this half-existence of clouded resin

in which I can move neither backwards nor forwards
and for which I never asked    neither did I ask to be

caught up in or fed GM-this and GM-that but am hungry
for a life snouting through compost and mud    also

being fed-up with plastic politics, hard resin policies
in this our current state of pig-democracy

I yearn for my forebears' mud baths and swill.

10

powerless to galilee

drowned in mercuric waves

of galilee, acidic dreams,

poison remembrance.

swine, from muck and mud,

bones and hooves,

like gaderene, cursed

by demons to hill and cliff.

she drowned herself in a liquid tomb

amongst graves of the devoured

souls powerless to unholy spirits.

sow, engulfed by lure of briny,

alluring call of salty death.

11

Too Hot for Pigs

Granddaddy always said
summers in the south
were too hot for pigs.
I laughed, the cool mist
spritzing my cheeks,
the roar of the Pacific before us
as we stood on an outcropping
of craggy rocks.
He loved to tell
of the South and his past
while the cool, summer breeze
whipped my curls back.
He told of the crickets,
the cotton flying
and cicadas chirping.
He told of catching fireflies
in his bare fists in the open fields.
Again, he said his catchphrase
to remind me
how lucky we were
here on the west coast.
I grinned big and shared my image
of a beautiful prize pig
from the county fair
standing in the cool ocean
freckled snout
lifting up with a grin
Read more >

12

Treading Water

Big Al, the
mud puddle master,
braves tempest pools where
where the body politic
herd together to argue,
oink and squeal like swine,
rub oil onto smooth skin,
swill poolside drinks,
brag about bullshit—
eco destruction hailed a
noble accomplishments;
     Big Al listens
     Big Al thinks
     Big Al knows
egocentric people
never measure up to
his patrician patience,
civil domestication,
pot-bellied perseverance;
under August azure skies,
licking his lucky tusks,
Big Al floats above in all:
cerebral, content, refreshed...
gallant head piercing the cool,
clear, chlorinated water,
piggy-stroking his way past
each daily crisis—buoyant
beyond false human promises,
Read more >

13

When you told me about pigs

At lunch today, there was talk about how much water there is in some bacon you get at supermarkets. I was the veggie outsider, the voyeuse. A role I slip into and out of in life, and which I suspect suits me. I thought of pigs swimming in the soft, balmy sea, little trotters whirring away under the surface like windmills you blow as a child, the papery ones on sticks. Noses wet and delicate. A grunt, a quiet oink. Bodies full of water. Earth full of water. Life of liquid, fluid, free. Connected to everything, even when you bleed.

We were in a happy place, when you asked me about pigs. We’d spent the Saturday driving around in your car and listening to Melissa Etheridge and Amy Ray, debating which was cooler. We staggered around Formby, through prickly green heat and scratchy squirrels and ice-cream with blue sherbet that we tried to get giddy on, but we were already delirious from the sun. We stumbled on the cusp of the dunes, legs itching with sandbugs. We gave up and drove home, blaring out Indigo Girls through open windows. We made cookies from a packet.

Sunday we trawled the Arndale, eye-grazing on posh chocolate and bathbombs full of glitter and two-for-one books, trying to find the half-decent queer ones. We ended up in the posh home store, the one that we could never find when we wanted to spend money, but always did when we didn't have money to spend. We drooled over pottery, matching sets of bowls in turquoise, navy, coral; mugs with rainbow polka dots and billowy petals and silver, wafer-fine butterflies. I dragged you away from the candles, you dragged me away from the rugs, from the woven blue and silver that I knew would match the aesthetic of our room.

“Our room has nothing in it but a lavender plant that is dying,” you said. “We should get a purple rug.”

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14

Hog gone daz not die – 500 pork chops never made!

Hate to boar you with porcine of writing skills, but I sus taind screaming until horse in the throat One lazy Aust afternoon, (albeit hazy, hot, humid - perfect weather being blithely willingly hogtied), these laser keen eyes, (especially since undergoing state of the art genetic engineering courtesy microchips to enhance vision manifold) espied what appeared as some large farm animal barely able to stay afloat A soft heartfelt sure feet of sympathy immediately welled up within my sparse physique Though far outweighed by four footed cloven hoofed creature, the automatic impulse arose to rescue said beautiful animal This rescue meant every passing second precious to succeed Perhaps telepathic communication inferred After all yours truly willingly subjected himself as laboratory rat Anything done for advancement of science stood as supreme motive to volunteer this body electric Thus, the means accomplished to communicate with most every other living thing courtesy mental powers Hence words superfluous to affect linkedin modus operandi vis a vis transmitting motive Upon breaching thru the fifty plus shades of gray matter comprising cerebral capacity of robust gentle beast, he/she reflexively turned his/her head in my direction As an ace swimmer (tossed keppy first overboard into the deepest part of these waters when a lil thang), affinity (fins as well) manifested within me to automatically gravitate toward expansive seas, oceans, lakes Countless circumstances (whereby some life form found themself in death struggle courtesy series of unfortunate events – Lemony Snicket never ruled out as suspect) invariably found yours truly saving the day A damsel in distress (actually more than one occasion) burnished humble role as knight in shiny wet (waterproof/resistant whatever without question)
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15

Ship Pig

In the bush you pranced proudly,
Chin up, tail erect,
Tusks arranged like pistons.
Brambles brushed your bristles
As you trotted down trails
Of your own making.

On the farm, your trails stopped
At wooden rails. You fed all day
On corn and slop,
And the occasional rattler,
Like the one you gobbled up
As the farmer boy watched in horror.

Now here you are on the desert isle,
A castaway smiling in the surf.
The hot brine burns your scabs,
Soothes your flea-tormented hide.
Cruising bull sharks relish your musk.
Now is your chance: to blaze paths
Up to the island’s high places,
Down to the shore for daily baths,
To mark territory, not time,
To recapitulate past lives.

16

I’m Literally The Pig Swimming Past

I never asked to become a meme. So allow me to reclaim my narrative.

If that monkey can claim a selfie, then so can I.

Caption this! “I’m literally the pig swimming past.” Cry-Laughing Emoji. Tired Emoji. Downcast Face With Sweat Emoji. Pig Emoji. Snout Emoji.

I don’t even remember that picture being taken. I was just going about my day. I hadn’t noticed the bronzed kissing couple, greasy with sunscreen, standing in my little corner of the shallows. I am inured to such spectacles, at this point. Her legs around his hips, arms around his neck, their faceless faces pressed together.

I see so many of them, and they’re all interchangeable – slim golden bodies. Perfect makeup, unmarred by the caresses of the Atlantic. Perfectly styled hair. Eyes invisible behind designer sunglasses. They all look so similar, and they sound so similar too. Cooing. Squealing as soon as they set eyes – and phones – on us.

I don’t care how many times the meme has been shared. I don’t care if you’re lonely. I don’t care if you think it’s funny. I don’t even care that it’s cause you think I’m so cute.

You’re not “literally the pig swimming past.” I am, though.

We live where the water and sky slant into one another. An island that is “uninhabited”, unless you count us. Which I suppose they don’t. Why wouldn’t people seek out peace here? It’s paradise. Even I, who have never known anywhere else, know that.

It just seems a little counterintuitive to feel you have to parade that peace all over the world. Broadcast it.

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17

under/not under

you try to take the upper hand
always on the look-out
ready to jump if you see
an opportunity

it could be
an extra cup of coffee
some washing up
why I want to go out to buy buns

a nineteenth century photo shows
when Goya first painted El Perro Semihundido
on the walls of his Quinta del Sordo house
the half-drowned dog had its eyes fixed
on two birds fluttering above him

spirit guttering I’ve been stuck
but I’m not going under

18

Round and round it goes

A pig in water
could be
like a fish in water, or
like a fish in a tree, or
like a fish leaping in the air.

Frankly,
it could go a million ways.
"Think of all the ways it could work,"
says glossy, cheap therapy online.

Well,
he could hop around in denial,
huffing and puffing and
glorifying his drained heart;
licking the salt off his weariness.

He could try
to snuff his snout into the mess,
evolve into an amphibian
or die trying,
staying true to one's genes.

He could
fly into a fantasy
where the horizon flows over
the brim, where he breathes in
the mundane and breathes out
magic, where dreams never die
Read more >

19

Kosher, babe

In that age, it was a well known ritual sacrifice
At the first sizzling of the sun of the morning after,
A cured offering to propitiate the god of hangovers.
My head hung in shame, rashly, I was tempted and I ate.

It was just the once, just to try, and everyone else
Was chewing at your flesh, but never again, I swear.
I delight too much in you whole, your seriocomic waddle,
From smallest cradled squeak, to lumbering nonchalance.

Your flesh is as ours, substituted and tested with gunshot,
But I would rather shoot myself up than risk your skin.
You are the all-out eater: nuts, tufts, bones and scraps,
Without a second grunt, you'd even eat away joylessness.

Naturally, you'd chew us up if allowed, but never bitterly.
Put 'er there, cloven hoof – I hope you escape our plates!
Unclean sacred pudding, you taste enough to live and let live,
May your bristled ears only be scratched in truce and treaty.

20

JUNK DNA

Mister Thomas scratched his head when he came to the project folder belonging to John Mathitis. The assignment had been to bring a photograph to class which related to the evolution of physiology lectures he’d been giving prior to the Easter break.

The expected posing with monkey photos with which he had been inundated, interspersed with a few imaginative comparison of corvine species – crows, choughs, ravens – had dismayed him to frustration.

“I should have excluded monkeys as well as finches,” he muttered beneath his breath, mentally kicking himself for being distracted enough by his own anticipated holiday not to have immediately thought of that.

The photo continued to peer at him through the pig’s eyes. No comparative sub-species was pictured.

Eventually he sighed and waved the boy up to his desk amid a susurration of smart remarks.

He supinated his hands over the 6” by 8” glossy as the boy drew level with his left shoulder as he sat.

“So?”

“It’s a pig emerging from the sea, sir, just like you said.”

Thomas grunted. Okay, that he could accept.

“So where is the biodiversity aspect of the assignment?”

“I took the photo sir – so I’m the comparative.”

Thomas sighed and leaned back in the chair to hold the boy’s eyes.

“Is there something you’re not telling me about your family?” Read more >

21

porcine ponderings

I'm not at all sure how I was lured to this spot in these nary-a-care about being in the range of such oh-so-pleasant Caribbean waters at this strange angle and with a celestial azure as background if I turn around to look (the soundless cumulus are of no import whatsoever) but I do somehow vaguely recall some Spanish speakers of the Caribe and Iberia discussing whether I would qualify as a puerco or a cochino or a cerdo or even a marrano which I for some reason know was a term for a sort of religious turncoat way back in the day (treason?) switching from Judaism to a Christian prism and therein an optical suggestion applicable to my present condition of heightened sensual awareness with ears sharply attuned and eyes doubly awake and snout about ready to taste the reeling feeling below the waterline and the sensation of sand-struck or stuck if I am not careful hooves behooving me and my newly found ability to think like a human wandering in space in place and wondering about the nature of the current aquatic challenge and of these porcine ponderings

22

Delirium

In my smile you can decipher things unrelated,
like the scavenger that was you,
nibbling on my heart,
crusading and cutting through my veins.
petting and building a home
inside me first,
and then filling my organs
with rosemary and sage.

Setting my insides on fire
and then leaving me in ashes,
You smiled,
Unable to decipher my pain.
And oh I wish, I could elucidate the pain.
the exquisite pain of knowing,
how much I cared,
But no, you don't
and maybe you never actually cared.

So what
If I'm just a piggy?
It's you who brought me up
like your own baby
and then secured my cuffs
to bricks
so that you could drown me
with the waves.

Read more >
23

Balance

The day is nice enough to go for a swim. In water I web, my scars yawn slowly, blink in bubbles. Kicking and punching the way I came into this world, till the sea around me tires.

The sky dots all its clouds and is an indulgent summertime blue. I would do anything to be the same: mute, creature with creature comforts, effortless. Instead, I am a mottled patchwork that worries and wants to be in camouflage, wants to be lost and subdued in a holding environment.

(Insert names of everyone who never touched me.)

So, a compromise: sea, hold me, even though I lash out and seem ungrateful. Let me start by standing chin-deep in this crest of waves and learn to be enveloped without fighting (for) it. Under water I can be a single-hued anything: cow, ship before the wreck, plastic piece of art. And later, let me remember the weight of almost-floating, the gift of stewing in different elements simultaneously. Neither dry nor drowning, but finding the limits of both.

24

Idyll of the pig

Beyond this little picture a rash queue
simmers beside the fenced-off summer: a common
enough sight, but this little pig does not
do “common”. Mottled, clever, little pig,
he knows to keep cool in extreme conditions,
and takes his trotters for a dip. The sand
clouds around him; above him gasp scorched clouds;

and still this stretch of sea, idyllic in
its way, is almost his alone. The star
actor whose lucky, mottled, clever, little
pig this is, is somewhere here as well –
perhaps the swains outside half-recognize
the film star, too. It barely matters. August
dotes on one of them. And the other dozes...

25

Little Alsop

Up on deck, and the world is over-exposed by sun off of white yacht, and I long to be back below with my Sennheisers and Tchaikovsky and the particular way my hair is now long enough to flop back and forth as I conduct imaginary concertos. ‘Too hot on deck,’ had been my excuse all day, while building up a musical sweat.

My uncle, over there in the sunlight, beckons me. This is his boat; I am his charge. That’s his woman, over there with the legs and the glasses and the caricature smile. This is his cove, with its cobalt waters and pale shale at the bottom. This may as well be his whole entire ocean. Those are his colleagues sitting around him at long table set like a Parisian restaurant with multiple layers of cutlery and wine glasses catching the late-dinner light. Late because it was too hot to eat any earlier, and late because it takes time for the cook to gut all the fish they’d caught today.

‘Welcome, Little Alsop,’ came the chorus. ‘Hello, Little Alsop.’

They all call me that. Only my uncle knows why; he thinks he’s being cruel, but Marin Alsop is great, and girls are really great too.

He watches me now, as I pull in my chair next to him: his linen shirt, straw trilby, beard bleached by the sun. He notes the dampness of my T-shirt.

‘Take a swim before we eat,’ he says.

‘I’m fine.’

‘Take a swim. You smell like ham.’

I glance over starboard to the children in the water below, their middles wrapped in pumped-up flamingos and unicorns, water so clear they’re pretty much flying. Read more >

26

Pig versus Dog

Shall I compare
and contrast you
with a dog?

Your fur is fine
and dappled
                with    black    splotches
like dog fur.

You are an unashamed quadruped,
ably moving about on all fours
over wet and dry earth
like dogs do.

Your floppy, shapely ears
hear considerably worse
and are more often
eaten by humans
than dog ears.

You are more dependent
on your acute olfaction
than dogs are,
happily seeking out
valuable truffles
for us humans.

You are smarter and cleaner
than the average dog
yet remain the underdog.

Read more >
27

Pigfish

A strange new pigfish has been discovered in the ocean. It’s quite a porker and if caught makes a great dish to serve. You can have filet of butt, ham on the half shell or fried mountain oysters. Bacon made from its side is tasty with hush puppies and fries or, well, everything.

This fish has feet instead of fins and they are especially good pickled. While you don’t eat the skin of most fish, this one’s skin can be deep-fried and served as a snack or appetizer. We even heard some people barbecue this fish, so I guess nothing is off limits.

Good luck catching one. They are rarer than a European eel and slicker than a greased grouper. For bait, try, corncobs. Be sure to get a picture if you catch one. The naysayers will need proof or they won’t believe it exists, but just wait 'til they taste it!

28

Goodbye, Uncle Edward

People find it so comical when I tell them that my mother’s best friend was a pig. I hate it. Edward was no joke. They find it even more hilarious when I tell them she grew up by the beach, and they would swim together every day.

“A swimming pig! Come off it…”

But it’s true. Edward was a born swimmer. Mother said she never would have perfected the butterfly stroke if not for his guidance.

Mother’s parents brought Edward home just after the ban on pets was enacted. The pollution within the city limits and the bordering towns had gotten really bad. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the municipal government cared deeply for the well-being of animals, but really they just didn’t have the resources to deal with the dog and cat corpses piling up in the streets. It was unseemly.

Mother said the banned animal list was at least ten-feet long. It was plastered all over the seaside town, so nobody could claim not to have seen it. She saw her parents laboriously pore over the list frequently, muttering to each other solemnly as they did so. She worried that perhaps she was included on the banned animal list. She couldn’t check because she hadn’t yet learned to read. Would they send her to live on a farm in the countryside, too?

Then one day, Edward was there. As it turned out, the extensive list said nothing about pigs.

Edward became an integral part of Mother’s life. He was the talk of the town. Everyone missed their pets so much that he became everyone’s pet, everyone’s best friend. He was there for every milestone: birthdays, breakups, graduations. Read more >

29

Snouts, Trotters, Tusks

In the days after the flood
in the days when the whole earth
seems awash with the tears
of every man-woman-person-child
every one of us lost
and at float in the endless sea,
pigs may not fly but they will swim
up to their oxters in the warm, in the briny.
They will bristle with resourcefulness,
snuffling out soft plants to eat
smelling the acorns for coffee
leading us through and on.
See, they will snort, see, there is still
so much good left in the world.
Then they will smile showing their teeth
in the way only whole hogs can.

30

Lies About Pigs

Please don’t believe lies about pigs in muck;
today's pig is not tomorrow’s bacon;
and don’t expect me to bring good luck.
I love to swim in a cool clear ocean
beneath azure skies and gentle cumuli;
most nights I’m tracking stars and planets –
I really don’t like to boast about it unduly –
I pride myself on my excellent habits
and I’m smart, with poetry in my blood.
All the same, on second thoughts, I can’t resist
the urge sometimes to bathe in mud.

31

transmogrification

I walk into the ocean      hog billowed waves –
determined to submerge my porcine limbs
surrender bulk to weightlessness
resign earth and sky and in aqua-shadows
on shifting sand      my mind will rise
to celebrate my innate boar-dom
my honking snout      my deep piggy eyes
I'll swim far from half-wit humans
I'll save my leathery hide      refuse to bristle
brushes to sweep floors or street-kerbs
I will fly      descend on deep currents
to Atlantis      sacrifice my body
feed lost angels      join pearls with swine
such salted love      such sweet redemption

32

Come For A Swim

“Come for a swim,” they said
and I thought “why not?”
It would be a new experience for me.
I’d looked over from my field and seen the pool,
seen the children laughing and splashing
and moving through the water so easily.
What an adventure it would be!
I pushed through a gap in the fence,
ran right up to the edge
and jumped!
I hadn’t expected to sink.
The children hadn't sunk.
What will happen if I go lower?
Already my feet don’t touch the ground,
if there is any ground under this water.
“Come for a swim,” they said,
I should have tried to fly
I’m sure pigs can fly.

33

Roger

What sort of idiot befriends the only viable source of meat protein on a deserted island?

A) A half-drowned idiot
B) A concussed idiot
C) A lonely idiot
D) A pampered idiot
E) All of the above

The correct answer is E.

I was a desperate idiot when I awoke covered in fine, white sand, turquoise water lapping at my feet. Couldn't quite remember how I ended up in my current state. I lifted my head briefly, under the baking sun, only to feel like the Patriots place kicker just punted my bloated skull for 80 yards.

Then I heard curious snuffling, the hair at my temple nudged by something wet and membranous. I turned my throbbing balloon to face the intruder, and there – with mildly-curious dark eyes, and bristly ears half-cocked – was Roger.

My guess is that Roger would have begun nibbling at my nether regions had I not smelled like I worked in a local brewery. I got up and held out my hand to my new friend, who promptly took a step back and snorted, presumably in disgust. Touché, pig.

Despite still feeling like I was being dribbled by Steph Curry, I began an ill-advised survey of my surroundings. I briefly entertained the delirious notion I was the outer husk of an insect, after being drained by a spider.

Roger followed at an un-trusting distance.

Read more >
34

Greta Rattles Her Cage

I’m not amphibious, nor am I the shepherd’s dog. I got hooves but I’m no boar. My mind can fly, but I got no wings. What’s more I ain’t wild, I’s domesticated, I know where and when to lay, where I don’t belong, and when the food’s comin’. My ancestry has fed millions of y’all. That’s right, y’all got a little piece of mine inside ya. Look here! Hey! If no response I’m good as dead. This is a sad state of affairs. Wake up! I ain’t got the time. We’s countin’ down.
Can ya feel me? Can ya feel me?

Hey out there! SOS man! This here is a rising sideways cluster f**k. Don’t be dumb, dude, I’m not. I’m a spotted Caribbean pig, thus the spots and the overall look of disrespect. They call me Greta. I am daughter of the Animal Farm revolutionary instigator, the very one who stayed true to the cause. I’m young and fit and smart as they come.
I’ll squeal and curl up my tail if you tickle my belly.

I jumped the fence when the barn collapsed, waded the stream, swam the overflowing river. There’s no place left
to go, the roof is gone, the towels left out in the rain, there’s no place to catch a dry moment. The water is wet and
it is wet everywhere. Where’s the high tech, meta scientific solution, the magic wand that transforms all this into a happy hay filled landscape. Rescue now would require helicopters, thousands of them. Or maybe clouds could be strung with strings strong enough to lift and carry me away. Look here – nobody looks good in this compromised position. Desperation forces us to our knees, purposely taking on
a humble posture to beg for your mercy.

Empty blue above, far as the eyes can see, tattered clouds reveal nothing, green below, and the waters rising, man. Where’s the damn arc? Read more >

35

Glacial

Submerged in mind’s Mariana trench, lid-locked;
Sinking deeper than lust. Transfigurations swim,
Unstable before cortisol-shot eyes.

Feet kiss the gauze of squalid ground, thrusting sandstorm
Towards the skies; the work of a dust devil
Suffocating love in a bacchanalian cloud.

Open faced and pigheaded, wading through waters
While eyeballs graze the skull’s apex,
Sanity is spurned for tangled knots of humanity.

Extrication is futile. The sun and moon eclipse
And become undone. Light embraces concavity
With beams like the brawny arms of a fighter.

Tawny passion spreads across impermeable stone,
Parasitic and desirous of depths profound
Within the eye of a tornado, inverted and cold.

36

YEAR OF THE PIG

He reminded me of the piggy bank where I’d saved all my spare change as a kid. I invested all I had in him, feeding him until stuffed, while he turned out to be emptier than I’d ever thought possible.

We didn’t talk much, he and I. We used grunts to communicate and cuddled up to keep warm.

When we get rich, baby, I promised, we’ll ride the waves, and if we ever get bored, we’ll scratch ourselves on trees and wallow in the shallows.

I hear ya, hon, he said. I’m tired of being told I sweat like a pig and live in a pigsty all the time. I need a change of scenery too.

Out of the blue, he told me one day he didn’t like to fry in the sun after all and preferred rolling in the mud, as well as something about sourcing out buried land mines I didn’t quite understand. He couldn’t fool me. He must’ve found another teat to suckle from.

I still have that piggy bank and wonder to this day – of all the animals in the world, why did the pig get all the glory?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta find some place to cool off and I’m not a big fan of mud puddles myself. Maybe Antarctica. From what I hear, there are no pigs there.

37

Pool Boy Idyll I

Come, O Gladiolus! Thyrsis! Daphnis! Steve!
It’s the height of the flourishing day,
The pool’s all gone a kind of crisp blue Hockney.
We stand beneath the pergola with nets,
And shirts that smell of chlorine Capistrano,
Pergamon, a temple kept mum, patio
Intaglio, sing me a lay, fat fabulo:
I bet you a pig, a fine specimen
Not porcelain porcine but said Zeuxis
Real as grapes, shallow end bathing baldly,
As if nothing, as if Los Angeles
Did not lie on a pectoral fault line,
Graved deadly into the earth, seismics,
Sonatas, no minor keys, tremulos
But a good fat blunt of a song, summer
Sunscreen smelt and already tipping over.

38

no purchase to exhale

I dreamed I was drowning, with no purchase to exhale; this exegesis an arc, when an ark, raft, a floating felled tree from a logging camp, any-thing other, would have been more partisan, appropriate.
But being a dowser is all about the night sweats – every drop doesn't lead to the sea, you understand?
Of course you do – you've swallowed your spit before, choking on a meniscus that could easily be a contact lens plucked from your eye; and salt water stings.

Spirited away, swirling, under a metal filling gone mad for frequency, the drain cover, my mouth snuffling, rooting for silver, or some-thing other, equally precious. Such as I am. Floating in goose-down feathers.
But the finding of me, is about walking barefoot, as I hold a blue-road and a cloven talisman, a small ivory carved horn, in my outstretched hands.

My friend Veil, argues differently. But then she presages passage along a stick and timber filled river. She suggests truffles are within her purview, but I can't worry her, for I constantly mistake fly agaric as other. And so we are, if anything, both divining for some One. Her as punter – me as douser.

39

Tender Piglets

What Stein did with buttons
I like to do with piglets—
tenderize them in water

marinate them live with lemon
juice and vinegar in deep
clear Corningware casseroles

then spit and roast them
over mesquite chips
till the skin crackles

fat melting and filling
the air with the scent
of downhome dinner

don’t imagine cute matters
don’t think about cruelty
just smack those lips and dig in

the appetite is all

40

Cool

So, you've chased me down, in all this heat...
do you want to join me here, walking in the cool
waters along the sandy bottom?
I know I might not win this game,
you may yet round me up, send me back to the pen
or worse.
Yet, for today, for this one present moment,
I am cool, relaxed, enjoying the slap of water
against my snout, the sky blue, streaked with clouds
above me.
I am free – of the heat of day, of your anger,
of tomorrow's troubles.
Generously, I invite you in as well.
Cool

41

Quirky Pig

Why shouldn’t I?
Life has to be a series of mishaps
Chance adventures that make me look silly
Limbs suspended in open sea water
Body cooled in clear ocean currents
I am out of place here but it feels good
To be the first calf swimming without wings

Why shouldn’t I?
If I do not look straight at the camera
With the determined stare of old sow
Straight-faced, full on, with pink snout held high
Ears poised ready to scare a seagull
Can I pull it off, make a stand like this?
To be the first calf raising awareness

Why shouldn’t I?
Laugh at you beings who laugh back at me
As you bask in the sunshine without end
Fully conscious that your foibles will mean
Termination of this planet we know
Rising water levels with hot ozone
Mean I am the first calf sacrificed

Why shouldn’t I?
Feel out of my depth in this pantomime
Turn to you, Human, for your compassion
Make yourself look up beyond the blue skies
This is no happy holiday Insta
We are drowning in global high waters
I am your first calf, pleading for your help.

42

Swimming as Nature Intended

"It's a what?" Sue said down the phone to Jolanda, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible but inwardly feeling the anxiety rising.
"Okay, so it's a barebummers camp but it's really well run and has great amenities. We go there with my folks every year. The kids would love it."
"To be honest Jolanda, I'm not keen on walking round in the buff."
The only way communal nakedness works, thought Sue, is if you know people intimately, really really well or not at all. Jolanda was a good friend but perhaps not quite at the 'it's okay to be naked in front of you and your family' stage yet.
"Ah but you don't have to. The only place you absolutely can't wear anything is the swimming pool," Jolanda continued. "We don't have to go it but might be nice for the kids to spend time outdoors."
Sue thought about it. They were visiting for a week and there's only so much to do in Katwijk. Three days camping might be nice. She didn't really care about other people being naked, she was just too self-conscious to be participant in general nudity. Sue knew by Jolanda's tone that the idea was an option with only one correct answer. Being a people-pleaser and feeling somewhat more relaxed with the idea, Sue agreed.

They arrived in Katwijk on an unusually warm day. The weather was mostly on par with London which had been very unremarkable thus far. However, the weather got warmer by the day and when they set off for the campsite a few days later, it was a newsworthy heatwave.

The giant tent was up after a three-hour mission that had seen a collective weight loss through sweat and an immediate regain by way of ice-cold beers. Being the only clothed person on site, Sue was now feeling increasingly ill at ease with her garbed status.

Read more >
43

I am the emperor of the sea and you are simply a pig

Even so, from this angle you are beautiful.

Yes, here I am, lounging on the sea floor in this, my come-to-bed robe.

I am trying to impress you.

Observe, as I lift a bunch of grapes above my head.

Seedless, yes.

I am playing my own slave. Fanning my own self with a palm frond. Running my own hands over the sodden velvet upholstery of my gilt-framed divan.

Indeed, you are correct – you have much to learn.

Did I mention that you’re beautiful?

Here, I will take your trotter in my upraised hand.

Oh. It is surprisingly alive.

The time must almost be upon us, then.

This? Oh, nothing. Just something my mother held as a child.

No, there has never been another time between us.

Your belly is taut as a sky before rain.

Do not be afraid.

When your blood clouds down through the water, only then will the sharks be released from my mouth.

44

Liberated

I gaze at you wonderingly
You, who come to my sanct with entrapments of the human world—the lens that draws my emotion, imposed against the horizon
Where the diaphanous clouds wander above the ocean.
Oh look! Again you capture my picture
But not the serenity in me, as I straddle the three worlds—dharti, akaash and paatal.
Today you cannot say to me that I am unclean
That I live and breed in sewers
That my temper is of the worst kind
That I am a beast of the lowest rung
See me! I say today...
Rather I declare
Look at the pristine surroundings I live in.
I feel cheerful from within, my family—
whistles and grunts
I am a beast, misunderstood and relegated,
But ensconced in this realm of beauty I stand liberated.
Dirty as a pig no more...

45

The one that got away

When Ma said, ‘Go to sea’, I felt its call
but didn’t factor in a ten-year trip.
My ears are... slightly large, I’m not too tall;
as ‘runt’, I was the mop-up boy on ship,
served damned Odysseus and all his men.
I slopped out shit from rotten lotus fruits
and tied them into sheep, and even then
they squealed and couldn’t find a quiet route.
Instead, they had to land and gloat and feast
while Circe watched them overdo the wine.
They ran around like drunken party beasts,
so no surprise she turned us into swine.
But, when they crawled out, penitent, I hid.
Oh, Gods have mercy, let me stay a pig.

46

The Background Hum

I'm always transfixed by 'The Dog' at the Prado Museum in Madrid. A masterpiece Goya did not intend to create, and yet undeniably one. I'm drawn to it, like many others. One look at the upward gazing dog, caught in a congealed mass, has us all spellbound.

Maybe, because all our fiction, our imagination, are but weaves in the web of our mind. Is the dog fighting to stay afloat, is he fighting for the shore? Or is he only attempting to capture one last glimpse of the world with its vast sky above? Is there something worth fighting for?

Dogs, cats, monkeys, pigs, mice, men and many more—how different are we really, in our quest to stay above the water, beat the odds? Goya's walls were pathways into his mind, into the human mind, into my mind. The before and after, and everything in middle will become a blur, one day—but the fight to stay above and afloat, and the question of the worth of that fight will always play out a constant, albeit irregular, background hum.

47

When Pigs Fly

Ha!
They said I couldn’t do it. Boy, were they wrong.
They said flying is where your feet don’t touch the ground.
They said flying takes your breath away.
They said flying is like floating, the wind on my face, weightless.
When I told them I would do it, they all laughed. They proclaimed I was a fool, pigs can never fly.
But they were wrong.
Wait until they get a load of me.

48

The Shifting Diagonal

Knowing that we are both sinking—
that we are all sinking—
I search your eyes for answers
in a world that is now tilted—
a world where the lens is a muddled turquoise.
There is an echo of fear
from all of the years
that have gone before.
We are trembling,
as children do,
after being swaddled in scratchy towels.
Parents reassuring us
with promises of a rainbow ice pop.
We long for that swaddling—
for someone to gently adjust the blinds
at twilight,
and cook up a pot of something bubbly, steaming,
and tomato-based—
fresh baked bread in a warm bowl.

If we look into the nature of want and longing,
we see ourselves in the mirror pool of eyes.
My soulful brown ovals meet your Aegean Sea blues.
I gaze into the deep forever of tomorrow.

The floor beneath our feet shifts on the diagonal.
The sky tilts, too.
The only way through is to float
and hold hands.
If we lose sight of the shore,
at least we will not lose each other.

49

The Pig Heart

Fragments of the pulsating day
entered our sea.
Little Janine with her bobbing chin
Entered the burdened stomach.
There she laid, her lungs
Like stockings full of murmurs.
They say her heart was the first to cry,
the initial shock rattled her bones into a polemic stance.
With the heart now removed,
Into the barren cavity went in a pig’s heart.
This new piece bounded by water,
creates waves that divided her lullaby features
by the parts that had already started
pulling away from the heart.
Still in a sterilized case, her old heart fading,
turning gelatinous, this light passes through its base,
but nothing comes of it.
A newfound home, by the coast, is where we spend our days,
where Janine can be found paddling her shaken limbs
until they become bedridden.
Only now she protests this is where she lives now,
bites and mimics the dead if she is ever removed from her sea.

50

The Business Trip

Soon we would both be drunk. The deal was dead—
we knew before the undercarriage clunked—
so we teased some Nassau bankers for an hour
then caught a little plane to Georgetown
picked up a rental and found a bar.

Flushed and garrulous on rum and Red Stripe,
the swelter of a Bahamian night,
we joked at the expense of yachtie yanks.
Sullen cops leaned back against rough planks
watching their island girls twerk to reggae.

A brace-toothed trust-fund blonde from the Hamptons
promised to take me out Bonefishing.
Eyes bright she described how the Grey Ghost fight
like no other, skimming through the shallows.
I’d have gone but her number got away.

I drove drunk down to Little Exuma
weaving away from the roadside gullies.
4.20am and we only saw
one other car—parked dubiously off-road
its dark interior lit with soft red stars.

In the hallelujah-headache morning,
my boss sprawled in his pants with a pirate book.
Nervous of some unspoken intention
I took a snorkel and walked the white beach
but lost my guts amongst the lemon sharks.

Read more >
51

Inner Struggle

Head above water,
Fighting against the tide.
Never good enough.

Keep pushing onwards,
No time to stop swimming.
Barely getting by.

(You) Can’t see the struggle,
Beneath the surface calm.
My eyes betray.

Passing clouds allude
To a happy distant future.
Wistfully unattainable.

Perhaps life can feel,
Unlike ceaselessly treading water.
Finding calm within.

52

A refreshing bath

standing still like an iceberg standing partly submerged
frozen in the moment
against the rich sky-blue hue parted by clouds

partly submerged halfway into water
wet and cold as hairs stand erect
whiskers and pink snort

breathing above water
startled by the intrusion
of the man with the lens

in a refreshing bath
blissfully oblivious to time and tide
underwater in unperturbed grace

53