LITANY OF THE SOW
Every year, American factory farmers trap sows in cramped crates;
they crush ten million piglets under the weight of their own bodies.
Farmers drug her to birth more piglets
in a cage so small, they cannot move.
Her piglets cry out in pain;
bones dig in her skin.
She has so many children, she doesn’t know
what to do. It doesn’t matter,
nothing she can do.
Fourteen piglets suckle at her teats;
She shifts her body to keep from losing
limbs and hears their moans,
bones tear in her skin.
This little piggy went to market; this little
piggy cried, wee, wee, wee—
nothing we can do.
Under her weight, her great broken heart,
sigh of last breaths, the shudders.
Bones of her own, she can barely move;
bones slash into her skin.
There is an old woman who lives in a shoe, so many
babies, nothing she can do.
she lives in a shoe.
They bind her with steel. She cries out.
Fourteen piglets suckle at her teats.
She cannot move
to comfort them.
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy—bones dig in
her great broken heart.
At McLean, faces of those
who have outlived their welcome
quiver like struck deer who refuse
to die. Patients, straightjacketed,
slump in chairs; built-in ashtrays
prevent burning, but no one owns
matches. Keys jangle on the attendant’s
belt, Christmas bells in July—heat
strains his face, craggy, avuncular.
He unlocks clanking doors—keys
ring against his body. At the nursing
station, patients clock
the night, murmur prayers with the pill
pills line up, soldiers,
tiny vacation capsules, weaken,
smother her into vacant sleep.
Bars on windows framed in black
and keys mean nothing
to the girl who escapes somehow, leopard-
print PJs silhouetted in riotous light.
Two Canada geese and three goslings
crib grass in a corner patch
triangulated by Redcoat Lane,
Tower Hill Road, and the reservoir.
The goslings nip green shoots
in their narrow constriction,
feathers fluttering in summer haze.
The geese hover over them, protecting
from menacing cars, blurring by
at breakneck speed, drivers cursing
out windows—pests, vermin.
They turn their radios up—Love,
O Careless Love. But at dawn no
cars, no noise, almost all people
sleeping, the parents bring
their goslings across the vacant
road to teach them how to swim.
The snapping turtle digs
down between the young
farmer’s carrot rows
one wet night, hoping for
a place to lay,
but June brings drought.
The farmer finds his rows
disturbed, and the turtle’s
framed face sinks
down in the dry dirt,
only her eyes and nose
exposed, seemingly asleep.
His new deer fence has not
kept her out, and now the
farmer’s family gathers round,
wondering what to do.
The same turtle tried
to lay in his greenhouse
the year before but didn’t stay.
Next morning, the turtle was gone—
no trace of eggs.