Saturday 20 April 2024

Patrick Cotter: Pig Factory

Among the honking, snorting throng, some child’s
pet - a banbh, bottled-reared and brow-stroked
whose widening grin and happy waddle
were cuddled until the day came to be prodded

into pork. Portioned and packaged in the factory
in the city where often a leering Camas moon
arced over the hill. There, a line of clattering
hooves whose honks turned to the squeals

of rusty hinges, hundreds in a chorus.
And the squeals turned to screeches of terror
and the screeches turned to screams of excruciation.
And in the houses next to the factory, people too poor

to move away paid no more heed to the squeals
than they would to the high-pitched chatter
of children in a schoolyard at breaktime.
And the screeches blended in their ears

with the screeches of gulls by the weir
where a culvert spewed into the river bits
and blood the rats and mullet scrambled for too.
Blood beyond the congealing of drisheen,

beyond the Pollack-like streaks on the walls
visible when first-floor doors were ajar on hot
days and the wafting scents of scraps made
the local moggies yawn at their privilege.

All this I know and yet that banbh I eat
albeit without its grin and the ears that wiggle
no more, dressing centre-table at the dinner parties
of well-earning, slumming gourmands.

Patrick Cotter lives in Cork. His poems have appeared in the Financial Times, London Review of Books, POETRY and Poetry Review. His latest collection is Sonic White Poise (Dedalus, 2021), More at