I came across this poem in an excellent article by Joyce Carol Oates in the August 13, 2015 issue of The New York Review of Books. It was quoted in an article about literary imagination entitled “Inspiration and Obsession in Life and Literature.”(When is this woman finally going to get her Nobel Prize? She deserves one five times over.) The poem is called “Pig” and it is by Henri Cole:
Poor patient pig—trying to keep his balance,
that’s all, upright on a flatbed ahead of me,
somewhere between Pennsylvania and Ohio,
enjoying the wind, maybe, against the tufts of hair
on the tops of his ears, like a Stoic at the foot
of the gallows, or, with my eyes heavy and glazed
from caffeine and driving, like a soul disembarking,
its flesh probably bacon now tipping into split
pea soup, or, more painful to me, like a man
in his middle years struggling to remain
vital and honest while we’re all just floating
around accidental-like on a breeze.
What funny thoughts slide into the head.
alone on the interstate with no place to be.
Oates writes in her particle: “(Parenthetically, I should mention that I read this poem when I taught several writing workshops at San Quentin in 2011, on my first meeting with the inmate-writers; in fact, I had to read it twice. The students were fascinated and moved by this poem, in which they saw themselves all too clearly.)”
What’s odd about the poem is that the driver begins to identify with the pig midway through the stanza.