Carol Muske-Dukes

Spam Risk
April 20, 2022 Muske-Dukes Carol



It was always a risk.
Trying to talk poetry
To the indifferent


Royalty of that tiny kingdom
Inside the brain which is inside
Another brain. Which is where,


Class, it’s all academic. Like Theory,
Robo-solicitors or spam in a can
Packed without breath in slick


Jello. It tastes vaguely familiar, like
The once-living happy pig, ignorant
Of the risk when the butcher visits


The pen, eliciting slippery awe.
Still, the shadow of the meat hook
Swings overhead, as he speaks


Of  watch out for what? Where
there’s manure is mortality.
His voice brutal-soft as a


Lullaby about a cradle falling out
Of the sky. Pigs fall out of the sky
Into the sty, where the packers


Unpack the process for them.
The butcher owns the spoils,
The scream inside what we eat.


But the pigs, the pigs shuffle
Toward the Gate, toward the
Press of all flesh into rendering –


Rapid fat crossing the tracks.
Class, look sharp: this is your brain
Before the impact of  killer insight
you can’t resist.

Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor at the University of Southern California and a former Poet Laureate of California. She is an author of 9 books of poems – most recent is Blue Rose, which was a 2019 Pulitzer Prize short-list finalist.