Eric Basso

Swine Wallow

an early snow fell melting
in the mud and weeds as I
passed by the swine wallow

beyond the hulk of a stubble hill
smoke from a hidden chimney
threaded the chill and faded
under the low gray sky

the hogs huddled for warmth
in a corner of the pen
the trough was empty
their oozing snouts rooted
at the slime from hunger

as I walked away the squeals
and the grunts subsided to
an unearthly hum and
a hoarse mumbling that
sounded like a human voice

I turned and looked back
no one stood there to match
the voice unless someone was
lying in muck behind the pigs
calling after me too weakly for
his words to be understood

nearing that stench again
I saw the swine break huddle
around their palest companion
and stand transfixed by
the deep buzz of moaning
they sustained as he told
a tale too sad to bear alone

long ago these pigs were men
sailing for home in a ship
glutted with spoils from
the Dardanian War

low on food and provisions
they dropped anchor on an isle
and there met everlasting doom

philosophers say it’s hard
for love to last long
as all love comes unwilled
and with will restored
is easily set aside

imagine then the curse that
cooked the hopeless will to love
into the food these men were
served to appease hunger
with starvation for their
former lives and bodies

they call her Poison Queen
she fed them bitter acorns
and all their strength of mind
was bred out as love grew
condemned to the wallow forever

long after Circe was erased
by the god that usurped
the old gods’ place
they loved her
and love her still

Odysseus never found Ithaca again
never returned to chaste Penelope

Circe’s spell still feeds
on this despairing love
peering through its blind window
as the wet snow falls
till time sweeps history away

               December 5, 2009

 

Sardines

pluck the key from the bottom
twist and curl the oval lid into
a silver scroll that carries
the salty odor of blood
as you surprise them
asleep in their brined bath

fork one to the plate
savor a pauper’s supper

cut into the first victim
as you lift it to your mouth
dream of the drenched nets
that swept it into this hollow
this twilight far from
temples and tombs of ocean

               November 26, 2013

© Eric Basso

Eric Basso was born in Baltimore in 1947. His work has appeared in the Chicago Review, Fiction International, Exquisite Corpse, and many other publications. His most recent books are Decompositions: Essays on Art & Literature 1973–1989 and Revagations: A Book of Dreams 1966–1974 (Asylum Arts Press). Six Gallery Press published Earthworks, his seventh collection of poems, in 2008. Asylum Arts Press published his early collection of poems, Umbra, in 2010. His 1976 novella, “The Beak Doctor,” was recently listed in The Huffington Post among the thirteen weirdest stories of the twentieth century.

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