A Prodigal Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

A Prodigal

Rating: 3.3

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.

But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.

Allan Lindsay 23 July 2013

The thing is, the clunkedy lines work - and that's what counts

22 18 Reply
Susan Williams 18 December 2015

Finding light in the most shadowy life- a pig farmer. Extraordinary insight and wisdom to be able to discover such beauty in unlikely places and unassuming souls

28 7 Reply
Kevin 12 May 2018

I'm afraid he's not a pig farmer. He's the prodigal son of the Bible (hence the title) , who has found himself sleeping secretly among the pigs since he has spent all his money and has nowhere else to turn.

3 7
Niki Nicholas Nkuna 06 July 2012

Great story telling poet

11 23 Reply
A M Clark 07 February 2013

Wonderful, vivid description, but clunkedy lines here and there...

12 17 Reply
Leo Messi Suii 07 December 2022


3 0 Reply
StepGrandaRory 24 January 2022

Ah well, I love a bird with yellow or green teeth: D

0 0 Reply
StepGrandaRory 24 January 2022

Thanks for agreeing pal, only downside is that aswell as the big knockers she has yellow teeth and a 40 inches xx

4 0 Reply
StepGrandaSteo 24 January 2022

I can agree with you on that one Rory, I've been studying her myself now a couple years and I have to say those huge knockers look delicious mhm mhm mhm😋

4 0 Reply
StepGrandaRory 24 January 2022

I have been studying sexy Elizabeth for a while now, and I have to say even tho she lives with pigs she has huge knockers

3 2 Reply
Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop

Worcester, Massachusetts
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