I am a Pig, the placemats tell me, blessed
with a beautiful personality and good fortune.
Compatible with Tigers, Rabbits, and Goats.
The first time I went to a pig farm
was also the first time I met my dead father’s
dead brother’s daughters. My cousins,
who owned and ran a piggery.
I was twelve. My father was not yet dead.
Theirs was. Slaughtered by a shower
of bullets sprayed into the side of his car.
A Hyundai Starex become a perforated night sky.
Their brother, my cousin, was slaughtered too.
So much dead family I’ll never meet.
According to myth, the Pig arrived
last for the emperor’s great meeting
and so was named twelfth, the very last in the Zodiac.
My father was one of eleven, the last boy
to arrive in the family, just after his brother,
my slaughtered uncle. At the farm, I saw
the mammoth girth of a full-grown sow,
heavy with a drift of piglets.
Later, in honor of my father’s homecoming
some twenty-five years after he left
the rusty country, left the piggery,
left the cigarette smoke in the funeral parlor,
seven years after his brother’s murder,
we all ate a whole lechón—no part wasted,
the skin remarkably crisp
from hours of a fattened animal
having done the economical work
of basting itself on a spit.
MICHELLE PEÑALOZA is the author of Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, winner of the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize (Inlandia Books, 2019). She is also the author of two chapbooks, landscape / heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). She is the recipient of fellowships, awards, and scholarships from the University of Oregon, Kundiman, Hugo House, The Key West Literary Seminar, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, among others. The proud daughter of Filipino immigrants, Michelle was born in the suburbs of Detroit, M I, and raised in Nashville, T N. She now lives in rural Northern California.