Berta Piñán- The Pig

Every day we would go down to feed the pig.
As the months went by
we vaguely began to learn
its destiny.
Obstinate and repetitive, it always
seemed to us closer
to the nature of men,
and just as each winter we celebrated
the snow, also, we applauded
that death of his, close,
hard, simple.
Year after year we discovered
there, in the warm and palpitating touch
of the meat, the immense force
of life.
The same way we also began to learn
the faces of sorrow,
but I suppose that then we still
did not know them.

Berta Piñán, Temporada de Pesca, 1998

I haven’t read the collection this poem is from. I found it in a book called Poesía en movimientu: 30 años de poesía asturiana. It comes from the best little essay in the book, by Esther Prietu Alonso about women’s poetry.

Perhaps because I have daughters I find women’s poetry especially interesting. Men and women go along together dancing through life, but the rules of the dance have certainly changed in the past forty years. As Esther Prietu says women stopped being “the object of literary creation- as the muse or model- to convert themselves into the literary subject (a category which, up to then, had only belonged to men, due to veneration for the fathers of the church who, from centuries back, had been spreading around the axiom ‘man creates, woman procreates’.”

The beauty of this little poem by Berta Piñán is the way it pulls many different threads into one dense little whole. The matanza, or killing, is still a regular part of village life where I live. A pig is fattened up for the kill and, at the coldest part of the year, it is sacrificed, the blood drained for blood sausage, the flesh cut for meat and chorizos made with the meat pieces. There is a lot of work involved and people get together to work together.

This is an immemorial rhythm. For example, the paintings of the labours of the month in the Romanesque church of San Isidoro in León show just this activity for November. There is a witty equivalence between the pig and a man- for being repetitive and obstinate- and this makes the sacrifice even more compelling on a symbolic level.

I have to get a hold of Temporada de Pesca now. From the evidence of this little poem, it will speak to me clearly about the world I see around me, and that is a quality I particularly value in good poetry.

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About Jason Preater

Working on Projects
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