Sow [Graduate ODU Poetry Prize Winner]

By Michael Alessi

It’s not the fists of steam that roll from the body
when the sow strung up on gambrels spills open.
It’s not her father stepping inside to cut away
what will be chitlins, the skin
folding over his shoulders like two wings.
It’s not the buckets of blood
her twin nephews lug to the barn
and pour into an earthen trough.
It’s not the black mantle of hair
that bobs on the surface of the scalding pan,
or the hook her uncle stirs the body with.
It’s not the way the zinc can lids
melt and curl from the heat
as the last dark hairs are scraped.
It’s not the sight of her brother leading
the animal to the clearing by a rope,
but that it lifts its head to sniff the pistol
at the pierce of the whistle
he has used to call her before.


Michael Alessi’s work has appeared in New Delta Review, where he won the 2013 Ryan R. Gibbs Short Fiction Contest, and is forthcoming in Nano Fiction and Mid-American Review. He lives in Chicago. Email him at