Root Hog

Root hog or die,
what they say;
flog the memory
for any old saw
or flight of fancy
to give some weight
to what, after all,
is just another tiresome day.

What a way
to frame the business of life
in a bunch of words,
good, bad or indifferent;
florid metaphors,
banal tags
clamped on brave
supernal human thoughts,
decked out
fancy and useless
as chandeliers
in the noonday sun.

Root hog
for your own sake
or Christ’s sake,
go ahead and find
Francis Bacon;
now no more
than famous
and dead.
What’s the use?
We know him
or we don’t.

The proof of knowing
intensive
in a pudding
Einstein himself
would fail to see
rise to reason or sense.

Words or deeds?
Overloaded science
random or precise,
being or nothing,
needs an axe to cut
the meat from the bone,
a knife to slice
the meat from the fat,
and who’s to say
it’s worth the effort?
Lady Husbandry’s
a cold hard consort
in the groves of academe,
where nothing grows
that’s not cut to order.

Root hog, root
or die or still unquiet
and alive,
continue your quest,
trotting towards
the setting sun;
along the way
try to settle
a few old debts,
but leave the fancy thoughts,
the complications, to those
who have no business
at the dirty trough;

we know who they are.

You have no time
for them,
no time at all to
look at the sky,
the sea, the land;
in the end
clamps on your nuts,
the knife cuts
you off from
Francis Bacon
and every single thing
you thought you ever knew.

There is nothing for you
but hanging dead
and bloody,
strung up
and ready to be gutted.
There are other ways, surely,
a ceremony, a grave,
but it’s all the same;
our fancy human
ways no more than
progressions of death
prettied up and
pretend and
in the end,
we all fail the living
because there they are,
left behind,
and here we are
nothing.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, Mind In Motion, The Comstock Review, The Antioch Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The University of Texas Review and The Beloit Poetry Journal. He has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and is now retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired. He once owned a cat that could whistle “Sweet Adeline,” use a knife and fork and killed a postman.

 

NOTE:
“Root, hog, or die” is an idiomatic expression of self-reliance. Early American usage predates 1834. It refers to letting a pig run loose in the woods to forage and survive, or not, depending upon the beast’s own effort. From Crockett, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, p. 117-118: “We know’d that nothing more could happen to us if we went than if we staid, for it looked like it was to be starvation any way; we therefore determined to go on the old saying, root, hog or die.”
 


 

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