This poem didn’t quite make it into my forthcoming book, and was written over thirty years ago, when I was living in a Devon farmhouse, where the farm buildings across the yard were used by my landlord to keep livestock. The destiny of all farm livestock is death in their prime, but life is sacred in some way, and surely a trait of humanity must be to respect animal life and obviate suffering ‘with no thought.’
The piglets’ chance
Before the oven in a cardboard box
five piglets struggle to live,
struggle to squeak on their hay-bed.
Scattered on the shit-strewn, concrete,
too weak to crawl
too weak to squeak,
in the cold, dark shed
I found them.
Their mother looked helpless,
and made no protest
at their removal,
birth-membrane still stretched
across their ears and backs.
One sibling lay already stiff in death.
Now they grunt and groan,
as the pain of warmth
spreads in their tiny bodies.
Sometime soon I must needs be hard
to return them to that wretched shed of death,
having given to them chance of life
with no thought of why they ever drew first breath.
© David Urwin