American Life in Poetry: Column 523


Some of us will be eating ham on Easter, and I thought I’d offer you a poem about a champion pig, by Jill Breckenridge, a Minnesotan who has written a series of poems based on that state’s fair. Her most recent book of poems is Sometimes, Nodin Press, 2015.

Pretty Ricky

He’s 1200 pounds of pink pork covered by black
bristles stiff enough to needle and sew with,
Pretty Ricky, all six feet of him spread
out, asleep, no fancy dancer, neither twirler
nor prancer, just eats and sleeps, the biggest
boar at the Fair, oblivious to gawkers, smirkers,
cholesterol, or weight watchers, fat off the hoof,
fat lying flat, good only for breeding and eating,
he won’t even stand to show off all the pork cuts
displayed on the poster behind him: ham, it says,
from the butt, oldest meat of civilized man;
kabobs from the shoulder, roasted on swords
by early Asian nomads; spareribs, sausage,
and bacon from the belly. Pretty Ricky urges
me to swear off pork, but it’s lunchtime and my
stomach wanders off to a foot-long or a brat with
‘kraut. I think twice, three times, waffle back
and forth between meat and a veggie wrap, as,
in front of me, many meals stretch out, dozing.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Poem copyright ©2009 by Jill Breckenridge, “Pretty Ricky,” from Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems About Pigs, James P. Lenfestey, Ed., (Red Dragonfly Press, 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of Jill Breckenridge and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


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