Clela Reed: "Farrowing"




I cupped my palm,  squeezed tight 

my fingers into a cone, and eased them 

deep into the bulging hole.

My mother’s voice coaxed me,

the one with the smallest hand.


Finding the piglet in the heaving sow

was harder than one might imagine,

what with the position, the stench, 

the up-to-the-elbow awkwardness,

as I searched inside for a snout, a hoof,


something I could gently tug or turn

to solve the complication, a block

in the litter’s flow, that ragged pace 

of a dozen or more, slopped out,

scooped up, and  placed gray and damp


like pedestrian words into lighted boxes. 

But I always found them and was glad 

to hear their piccolo squeals rising above

the sow’s bass grunts as the piglets 

warmed, grew pink with the effort of rooting  


until the last arrived and suckling could begin. 

It happened  more than once, 

farrowing troubles with a first delivery

or a breech or with tangled limbs 

I’d need to turn and unravel. 


And the struggle is still familiar—

the great sigh at the slick unlocking,

words spilling out at last in the rush of birth,  

wet and new, warming up to life

and demanding to be heard.


Clela Reed is the author of four collections of poetry: Dancing on the Rim (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2009), The Hero of the Revolution Serves Us Tea (Negative Capability Press, 2014), Bloodline (chapbook) (Evening Street Press, 2009), and Of Root and Sky (chapbook) (Pudding House Publications, 2010). She has had poems published in Cortland Review, Atlanta Review, Caesura Literary Magazine, Colere Journal, The Literati Review, Storysouth Journal, Clapboard House Literary Journal, and others.