She calls
across the tenement valley
to her friends pulling
laundry off the cross-cut line.
A block away hogs hang
from steel question-marks.
Guts pour from gashes in their bellies
spill over workers' shoes
fall between the floor slats into
Miller's River.
She calls
Bernadette, Madge, Belinda
in the chopped syllables
of neighborhood women
unable to inhale enough breath
to exhale their words
without choking on the stench.
Hogs from Chicago
shriek in the corrals
day and night
crammed tail to nose
fat round bodies
squeezed into ovals
backwards, forwards

Pound the laundry
rinse water pink.
Morning through night
the air stinks.
In light, darkness
the river weighted with hog blood
settling like flatulence
in an airtight room.
Time to cut loose
the slaughterhouse choke
on the throats of
Bernadette, Madge, Belinda,
on the children wheezing and coughing.
Dismantle the hogs
hung, swinging.
Dismantle the bowels of the slaughterhouse
its bowels,
blind Miller's River
bloodshot red stare.


Every evening, hundreds of workers
with hands they can never wash clean
tuck children under the covers
warm their cheeks with marbled palms
and later
in the black and white of night
trace the shape of sex with their lovers.
Who can wear red lipstick
wrap Christmas in its colors
cook tomato soup
knit a sweater, strands
of red wool?


The color of blood money

hog guts
pouring into a vermilion river

is the color of

the wide pink head, the scarlet tongue

her lungs

is the color of
his flame-red bloodshot eyes.

First published in Many Mountains Moving

Back to Dana Park