A great many of us agree with the proposition
the annual fourth of July pig-roast should be permanently cancelled,
though I cannot help recalling the camaraderie
in the fifties when all the women wore bonnets
and the men would bring blocks of ice in pickups
from the ice plant in Hartselle to keep the drinks cold;
the banjos and the mandolins, someone
always singing off-key at the top of their voice;
the pig hanging over the timbers glowing in the pit,
and you should know, if anyone asks, the pig
is not an actual pig. The pig is history.
But does it matter, really, where, or which animal?
It was not always a pig. In Johnson City, it was a lamb.
The men wore Hawaiian shirts, the women flowery mumus,
a linguistic anthropologist played a harp.
In Tuscaloosa, it was a goat—Frank Allen told me
one year “the goat” was a dog rescued from the pound.
In Illinois, it was a calf, 1989, a month after the massacre
at Tiananmen Square, and a professor had invited
three Chinese graduate students. A great place
in the country with a swimming hole and rope swing.
There were two British rock stars and Jim, who owned
the farm and was a personal friend of Muddy Waters,
brought out a shotgun, a bucket of eggs, and a big
sling-shot rubbered with the inner tube of a tractor tire.
The shooter would call “yolk,” and the egg rocket
high above the pasture—you only had a fraction of a second
to shoot—only the best marksmen ever hit the egg,
and I remember one of the Chinese students—
as he took the shotgun from Jim, he was shaking
so I had to hold him steady. He shot wildly—
perhaps he was shooting to protect some dear friend,
but the way the torque of the fear in his body
suddenly relaxed to laughter, I thought of orgasm,
no volition in the noise rising from his throat—
for just that instant, he was one of us, American,
he felt no embarrassment. He could do anything.