In a mountain village in Europe 

in the spiritual back of beyond 

when icy winter arrives 

it’s time to slaughter the pig 

up there in a world of their own 

locals gather in the street 

they’re not from Porto or Geneva 

Madrid or Bucharest 

they can’t make head nor tail 

of European Parliament debates 

to them the whole business 

all sounds like hogwash 

they don’t know the far right has the run of the place 

Brexit’s set the cat among the pigeons  

even if they knew all this 

they couldn’t do a thing about it 


and people 

out of step 

like odd socks in today’s Europe 

always wrong-footed, staggering 

from one disaster to the next 

but they can’t escape the telly 

after picking the crops 

and checking the chickens are safe from the fox 

they spend their evenings on the sofa 

watching whatever they find on the box 

it’s always the same old rubbish 

ranting and raving on every channel 

people kicking up an almighty ruckus 

they don’t get out much to look at the stars 

the earth and the universe 

are on first-name terms 

but the majesty of the sky 

passes them by 

surplus to their needs 

what hubris the earth the centre of the cosmos 


how many still think 

there’s nothing but us, the only sense 

and sensibility 

in an absurdly vast void 

they get on well this lot 

one wheeler-dealer two tongue-waggers  

the usual old-timers 

plus the blow-ins from Barcelona 

loath to return to the city on Sunday 

secretly praying for a downfall of snow 

that’ll leave the village smothered in white 

sausages and chops grilled over coals 

washed down with wine from local vines 

bubbling stews with garden vegetables 

a handful of beans garlic from the woods 

and half a rabbit and a rasher of bacon 

from a friendly farmer down the lane 

a lettuce that’s never been washed 

—a marvel of nature like  

fish that have never felt ice— 

tongues of fire burst forth from the hearth 

warming nooks, crannies 

and the cockles of hearts 

but it never happens 

the German lass Steffi 

has made a place for herself here 

like past generations of villagers 

she’s manged to raise 

poultry, tomatoes and three kids of her own 

the father’s the shepherd they say 

a strapping young man 

maybe it’s him or maybe it’s not 

Steffi gets on with her stuff 

she’s taken in two German lads 

boys with issues they say 

some love and attention soon calms them down 

the mountain air 

soothes their troubles and cares 

and a spot of hard work 

leaves no time for screens 

and dispels the screams 

of past abuse 

they run with the sheep through fields 

and valleys 

chasing and larking the day away 

Agustina and Marcelino 

living legends in the village 

invite them over to their pool 




in their new life 

but when they can 

they’re away 

off to Berlin 

thumbing a lift and cocking a snoot 

out of control 

fucking who they like 

taking what they want 

sleeping in the street till they tire 

and then they’re back 

in the village 

there’s a poet with sparks 

coming out of his ears 

he shapes words with his hands 

sowing syllables where others 

plant potatoes and up sprout poems 

with words in their roots 

from distant dells and hidden gorges 

words like 




his tongue on his fingertips 

his eager eyes leap up from the page 

from Kill All Normies to the treetops 

from El cor quiet to Montmagastre 

from Carner’s verse 

to the fashionable fascists 

who hate everything and everyone 

he jots down the thoughts 

whispered in his ear 

by the buzzing bees 

the elm becomes a cloud 

of enchanted umeboshi 

barking dogs tractors chainsaws 

jangling cowbells squawking chickens 

the next-door neighbour’s kids 

they say if you listen carefully 

you can hear the wind being born 

an open door lets everything in 

an open poem turns nothing away 


this isn’t prose 


it twists and turns 

scattering syllables pairing words 

all welcome 


this is a poem 

where nonsense is also new sense 

playing with tongues 

curling up words 

chewing the cud 

you’re reading this in translation 

not everything matches the original 

some colours are new 

some meanings are shaded 

some offshoots have run wild 

others were nipped in the bud 

some turnings were taken by chance 

swerving away from the usual path 

to a new home stocked with 

strange fruit and perky jams 

made by crabby grannies 

grafted tongues 

freed and reborn 

if we have to belong to a culture 

let it be a sea of tongues 

out with the maladies 

of perfect pure lives 

the poet doesn’t go to the slaughter 

but others arrive the day before 

early morning still dark 

the cock’s too sleepy to crow 

lights come on 

coffeepots whistle on stoves 


lazy lie-abeds 

wiping sleep from their eyes 

a hop, skip and a jump out into the cold 

following their own frozen breath 

an umbilical premonition 

like Donnie Darko’s 

they head for Steffi’s house 

an ancient tradition 

gathering in the square to kill the pig 

a public event for the last 500 years 

since the Reconquest 

since the Jews were expelled 

proving one’s Christian credentials 

pigs that divide 

pigs as animal borders 

give us this day our daily pig 

for ever and ever 

and yet before 

it was simply a kind of meat 

with no special meaning 

not a symbol 

but merely a beast 

and also to test 

the skills and fears of the village youngsters 

who baulks at cleaning the innards 

who licks their lips at the bubbling pot 

who covers their ears from the dying squeals 

who ties up sausages with their teeth 

there were no pigs in America until 

Christopher Columbus brought eight 

from La Gomera in 1493 

they ate lizards 

pineapples cassava walnuts and birds 

they soon multiplied 

and the flu virus they carried 

killed a million and a half Indians 

Steffi brandishes the knife 

she knows what to do 

she’s won over the village elders 

now she leads the slaughter 

and sets everyone to work 

the struggling pig knows what’s coming 

it takes six to hold it steady 

the knife cuts true 

out spurts blood 

gushing and gurgling 

into the black bucket 

they sear it with the blowtorch 

the smell of scorched skin 

the stench of burnt animal 

fills the cold air 

now they skin it while 

the children clean the innards 

with the hosepipe in the field 

inside the adults 

skin, cut and separate 

first head feet and spine  

out with the innards 

heart and liver 

hung up high 

next fillets, chops and tenderloin 

from the shoulder and belly 

then cheeks ears and snout 

from the head 

the bones are cut from legs and shoulders 

the fat for making sausages 

and lard 


chop up the meat and mix together 

“on their knees 

with two hands 

till it sweats from its arse” 

as Mesquida said in Llefre de tu 

salt and pepper 

herbs and spices 

stuff the sausages 

hang them up 

set the table 

for a celebratory feast 

after the slaughter 

celebrate the slaughter 

after the slaughter 

no one asks 

what’s left of the pig 

everyone’s full 

after the story 

no one asks 

what’s left of the world 

we just live here that’s all 

after the war 

no one asks 

what’s left of the country 

we struggle to get by 

after Europe 

no one asks 

what’s left of Europe 

everyone’s dreaming distracted dreams  

the answer’s always everything and nothing 

everything’s used, nothing goes to waste 

everything changes shape and name 

you can’t making sausages 

without any blood 

meat will be meat 

cooked in its own fat 

we’ll throw a great party 

to celebrate whatever 

victory or fall 

what’s left or what we’ve lost 

maybe we’ll become vegetarians 

perhaps there’ll be no more pigs slaughtered 

they’ll roam freely 

no longer our borders 

perhaps Europe will lose its name 

skinned to get through winter 

maybe we’ll survive on sausages 

from the slaughter 

on the cured meat 

of hope 

learning forwards 

to tip the scales 

to counterbalance past sorrows 

and withered cultures 

when the cupboard’s empty 

just crumbs of the past 

when all our meat’s but a memory 

when we’ve forgotten it all 

when a continent is once again just 

fertile land 



then we’ll have another tale to tell


Martí Sales

Martí Sales és llicenciat en Literatura Comparada. Ha fet discos amb Els Surfing Sirles i ha dirigit festivals de poesia com el Festival de Poesia de Barcelona i el de la Fundació Palau. També ha traduït John Fante, Kurt Vonnegut i John Berger, entre d’altres autors, i ha escrit cinc llibres (Huckleberry FinnDies feliços a la presóAra és el momentPrincipi d'incertesa i La cremallera).