to my Opa, the hog farmer

in the barn, late at night
we walk across frozen manure
to find three piglets, squealing
and one, cold and stiff and dead

we watch expectantly as
mamacita’s body ripples with the waves
of labor, her moans indistinguishable from
those of a human mother giving birth

the next morning, we find
three more piglets, feet away from
mamacita, crushed or frozen
dead nonetheless

i don’t cry, only think about
the tiny hooves i can see
how they formed in the womb,
entered the world only
to crumble

i think to myself
maybe a heat lamp would help
but a thought from somewhere deep
within me asks

“how will a piglet find their mother
to nurse if there is warmth
all around them?”

the business of eating meat is
looking death in the eyes
standing ankle-deep in its shit
carrying stiff corpses to the compost pile

if you can’t, and if you wouldn’t,
why do you partake?

the next day, I happen to wear my Opa’s
wool hat, feeling deserving

I have been where he was.

-A

The Fight About Tupperware

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I ran through every prayer I know
and stopped at three.

It was about guilt – about wanting to be there
and not being there,
about only remembering three prayers
and being too busy to call.

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I shoved clean laundry on the floor
to go to bed.

It was about exhaustion – about wanting to fall asleep
and not being able to,
about my teardrops landing on the cat
as rain on fur.

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I ran through every prayer I know
and stopped at three,
my teardrops landing on the cat
as rain on fur,
while she was scared and alone on a hospital bed
and I wasn’t there.

The fight about Tupperware was really about pain.

-L

Bound

My cousin asked my other cousin to come bury her dead horse
and I can’t get the image out of my mind
of him standing over the giant chocolate steed,
head bowed,
praying.

In our part of Ohio the soil is a sponge in the rain –
dark, porous and alive;
while in the dry, hot summer it is a powder –
light brown and airborne.

Little cousins kick up dust in the diamond;
bigger cousins rush home with dinner after work;
the large orange sun sets over the hills around the Valley;
and they all see each other on Sunday at church.

I don’t pray on Sundays at mass
but I do think about the way the wet earth feels
planting flowers on a sticky summer Sunday night.
Such images keep me bound.

-L

To My Sister

I try so hard to protect you but you need to know the truth.
I am sorry for that day at the beach when I laughed after that stranger put his hand on my leg.
You asked me why he did that and I said he probably didn’t mean anything by it,
but instead I should have told you what I know:
that you were right to think it was uncomfortable because it was uncomfortable
and you should never question how you feel.

I wish I could make the feeling you felt that day disappear.
The truth though is that your stomach will churn like that so many times that it will start to feel routine.
You might wonder if it’s just you or if you are somehow the cause but trust me you are not,
and it will never feel better only worse:
from a boy staring at you in gym class to a man squeezing your butt on the metro home
so you get off at the next stop and walk.

I feel like I should save you from discovering these dark things.
However I am a strong believer in knowledge as power so although you’ll suffer you should know.
By recognizing these wrongs you can give voice to pain and call for society to change,
but it will definitely not be easy:
mostly women will come to the meetings and the discussions will be mostly male panels
just remember “mostly” used to be “all”.

-L