In 1965, I lived in Spain, very close to what was there called the 'abbatoir' - the slaughterhouse. And I used to see animals driven to the slaughterhouse. Not driven in trucks, but driven on the ground - they walked. And they seemed somehow to anticipate something good wasn't waiting for them. The title itself comes from a line by Isak Dineson in a interview she gave about the changes in the world she noticed.
Animals Are passing From Our Lives
It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.
I’m to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers
that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,
suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes
that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.
from Not this Pig: Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1968), © Philip Levine 1968, used by permission of the author and the publisher. Poetry Foundation recording made on 13 September 2007, New York.