This piece first appeared in the Winter Reading issue (#50) of our Gravy quarterly.

Whole Hog

In Memoriam Jake Adam York

by Kevin Young

It is heavy,

a hog, you need

to stay

up all night, nursing

the fire like a beer,

or rise early

like we did, that first time

you taught me how

to drag December

awake into flame,

lighting pecan

& hickory, passed

between cinder block

& ash. Do you dig

a pit? No,

we build one

last house

for the huge sow

who we know

rooted & ranged

the given ground.

Head on, scrubbed, split,

the pig’s skin

crackles, a communion

of it—no spit,

just shoveling coals

like a locomotive

engineer, boilerman,


Casey Jones 

mounted to his cabin

& he took his farewell

trip to the promised land—

the smoke everywhere

like a prayer, clinging

your clothes for days

we do not wish

to wash away. To share

the weight, to wear it—

to honor the creature

by devouring it

whole—we know she

would return

the favor. He looked

at his watch

& his watch

was slow. Steam rises sweet

among the maples

& bamboo. How

do you know

it is done? The hog

will tell you.

Christmas Eve Day 2012

Kevin Young is the author of seven books of poetry. His nonfiction book The Grey Album was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle in criticism and won the PEN Open Award.