Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Companion Species

by Samuel Tongue

The field is an ocean of cotton-sedge. Magpies backcomb the sows’ bristlebacks, picking out lice with pinpeck precision. All bib and tucker, all captain’s table,
they shrug off sorrow and joy, girls and boys, secrets and kisses. Keep the silver and gold, keep the wishes.
     One stands straight as a mast, then punches right through the pigskin:
                       < Oh! Hot unction of rich rose-red gush, life’s delicious stream and salvation! >
and now they’re laughing in their fifty-a-day throats –
                       < Oh! Unsealed seams of uncoagulated wonder, life’s red-smiling sun trap! >
They stilt-strut across the sows’ pink decks, thick elephant-boats tacking in the wet field.

The pigs roll pebbles in their boot-puncture mouths, lining their bellies with ballast.
Rattle-bags wrapped in sausage-skins, they understand there is a price to pay
for such glossy parliaments. They must sacrifice a little blood in this social contract.
But there is space for rebellion. Wilfully pig-headed, weighed down in the pitching mud, they wallow titanically. Self-scuttled.  
The magpies bolt with clean cuffs and diamond-cut tails. The new sun burns them purple. They fill the lifeboat trees heavy and wait.