Just Remember, Little Pig

The Cut Pig, Isaac van Ostade

Your brick-lain cottage can protect you
for only so long. But I am not a pig! you squeal

and I admit you have learned human language
very well, sprouted fingers, pink and proficient

for holding a knife. No longer are you sweet
or suckling! Oh, dear pig, please believe

I understand. Even I would rather hide away
with my tender children than gather dandelion

-scattered bones for our pitiful broth. Even I
would make myself a bride if it meant one night

in a woodcutter’s bed. But a secret: A fresh brain
has the consistency of soft butter, and hunger

always makes a home for itself, even in flesh
as succulent as yours. More than once,

I’ve had to make do with whatever mangled
and shivering creature I could find, no matter

the maggots dappling its back. More
than once, I’ve held my door open

for a traveler lost in the snow with no
more breadcrumbs, and I no more children

left to eat. Please don’t look at me
like that: You must understand

it is winter. Look at my ribs. There is no
mistake of what I am, no mistake

of what I would do to live. You are like me,
pig or not: You have to keep the cold away

somehow, so please, dear one, keep your cutlery
close. Beware those wolves who offer you a warm

night’s passage through their mouths. Beware
all those other wolves you cannot lock out.