Pathetic.org  
 

Pig Island

by Kristina Woodhill

pig island was an unlikely name
for a piece of land across
the river Helmand from our small town of Lashkar Gah

in a land that abhors the hog
where men en masse would chase one down
and club it to death in religious righteousness

yet never enjoy its succulence
that we so savored – ah, that luscious loin
where fresh meat soon was not

beef or more likely lamb hung in our bazaar
open air shopping, cured with a powdering of dust
and whatever swarming, inspecting insects left behind

our men, great white hunters, partnered
with the Afghans and old photos show them together
reverently handling and comparing respective firearms

sighting in their weapons, rifle held steady
on the shoulder of a comrade
hunkered down Afghan style on their haunches
sharing stories of hunts gone by, eager for the next

a commonality of bringing home the kill
forged a strong bond between guide and foreigner
a primal gleam in their eyes for blood shared and extolled

access to pig island was through boggy land
depending on the time of year
or over a swaying suspension bridge

this discovered through a small opening
between bazaar shops that edged the river
giving us, the child explorers, that “Aha!” moment

we did not venture there alone, no, not us
for me a rite of passage to cross the bridge
and step upon this odd, somewhat forbidden ground

an island with large shade trees, a rare sight
open areas though stark, almost park like in our young eyes
and on one side the mysterious, sinister brambles of pig tunnels

we, almost teens, had to stoop to enter the tunnels
and oh, the thrill to crawl just inside and then, a bit further
to dare each other and the unknown, listen for the grunt
imagine the crashing rush of bristling bodies

we knew their bodies well, the dead of them
for we were not forbidden to touch the pig
so we explored at will the tough hide, the bristles
repelled and compelled, death before us, but not us
this time

our fathers handed us the tusks cut out of jaws that
could have ripped us like a ripe juicy melon
and we saved them and rubbed their smooth surface
and marveled at their white, sharp, solid, hard tone

our mothers reverently prepared and shared the pork
which sated our tongues, weary of canned spam
canned dinty more stew, sacked goods stacked and long stored
in a pantry of unimaginative, often wormy foods

it was rare then to actually hear of wild boar on the island
hunts went on from time to time in the general country side
the king himself came to our valley and a great hunt was organized
my older brother proud that he would hunt along side a king

beaters were hired and lined up along the road
side by side they trod through the designated hunting area
while the men with the guns approached from a safe angle
a most civilized approach to wiping out a cursed animal

the island called to us often, eerily, and we walked its paths
one night, a group of friends, led by an older brother
went to the island, and I, wisely well protected, was not allowed
that adventure

but it was foretold and I knew, yes, I knew
it was to be a special kind of night
a boy, my age, normal, growing strong, cocky
eager to take part and share in a different kind of hunt

ah, comraderie! I can only imagine the bridge crossing by night
the group tight together, the snickers from some to others
the shared secret that the one did not know, but must have thought
surely, surely the good humor included him

and so the island and the night welcomed them
or allowed them entrance and the plan for the hunt unfolded
the older, experienced hunter, telling the younger
who would stand where and how they would lure the
elusive snipe

ah, the shame of it, I feel it still
I told you I was not there, but my wish was the same as theirs
and were stars shooting to wish upon that night, all came true
all came true

the boy was left alone, an honored place to receive the snipes
driven by the others to him, and he would soon hear them come
and then the glory would be his, a bagged bird, surely an easy prey
in that dark night

you know the ending, as do I
I shrink in horror at their glee of telling of his tears of terror
left there for a sufficient time, enough time
I would rather face a boar in a tunnel than that unknown
of being left..... alone

well, yes, we were young and sometimes we were cruel
but I suppose we learned well by watching our elders
attending how the beaters forced the issue
allowing the beasts to think they had an escape route
until it was too late

as an adult I could not follow my family's tradition of hunting for food and pleasure
though wild game tastes like no other and I welcome it without apology
but I have crawled the tunnels and I hear on the news nightly
the tales of the hunt
and I know from just a casual glance that pig island is all around me
even now

07/15/2007

Posted on 07/15/2007
Copyright © 2020 Kristina Woodhill

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kyle Anne Kish on 07/15/07 at 05:00 PM

"..I would rather face a boar in a tunnel than that unknown of being left..... alone .." ... I believe this line sums it all up so well, Kristina. Yes, we learn from our elders. Sadly enough, that is not always a good thing. Thank you for sharing this poem.

Posted by Quentin S Clingerman on 07/15/07 at 08:27 PM

Most fascinating sharing of a slice of Afghan life.

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 07/15/07 at 11:42 PM

Well where did this trave come from? I found myself in all reverential awe and holy-struck one second, and the next -my seams were splitting with the humor stitching up the stories hem! Ah, how your brother smiles on this, I can feel him -and he's putting it in his favorites in the yonder above, just as I do now in the yonder below!

I must print this and bind it in Afghan + great white hunter canvas ribbon.

You are a natural story teller and you weave memories until they become like my own!

Posted by Mara Meade on 07/17/07 at 02:19 PM

My mind runs so many ways with this: you were gone by the time I lived in Lash and I've only heard of Pig Island through the other site. But I can see it in my minds eye and wonder if the island across the Helmand from OUR home was it... Oh what a story! And how beautifully descriptive of so so many things. I'll be back for more reads because there are so many details here that absolutely caught me in the heart and... life!

Posted by Mara Meade on 07/17/07 at 09:26 PM

"...which sated our tongues, weary of canned spam canned dinty more stew, sacked goods stacked and long stored in a pantry of unimaginative, often wormy foods."

Oh, how you captured a pure TCK detail that made me howl with laughter...

Posted by Mara Meade on 07/18/07 at 12:38 PM

And the the distinctly American "Snipe Hunt" in a foreign place - I LOVE that juxtaposition, not for the horror of it (on an island of wil boars, for goodness sakes) but how we kids did what.. we kids do regardless of geography.

Posted by Mara Meade on 07/20/07 at 07:41 PM

"...but I have crawled the tunnels and I hear on the news nightly the tales of the hunt and I know from just a casual glance that pig island is all around me even now."

Amen.

Especially when juxtaposed with your first lines: "in a land that abhors the hog where men en masse would chase one down and club it to death in religious righteousness."

We are all not that different after all.

Yes, Dear Kristina, back for more. This is so very pithy...

Return to the Previous Page
 

pathetic.org Version 7.3.2 May 2004 Terms and Conditions of Use 0 member(s) and 2 visitor(s) online
All works Copyright © 2020 their respective authors. Page Generated In 0 Second(s)