MN poetry: Robert Hedin’s “Tornado”

Robert Hedin is the author, translator, and editor of nearly two dozen books of prose and poetry. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his work, including three NEA fellowships, two Minnesota Book Awards, and Bush, McKnight, and Minnesota State Arts Boards fellowships. Forthcoming books in 2011 include Poems Prose Poems and The Lure-Maker from Posio: Selected Prose Poems of Dag T. Straumsvag (co-translated with Louis Jenkins). Robert Hedin is co-founder and current director of the Anderson Center, an artist retreat center, in Red Wing.

The following poem is part of a new collection titled Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems About Pigs. Edited by James Lenfestey, the concept for the collection came from the late poet Bill Holm.


The last time any of us saw Gustafson's prize sow

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She was rising over the floodlights

Of the poultry barns, pedaling off into a sky

Dark with wreckage.

If ever a sow was beautiful

It was she - 1200 pounds of blue-ribbon pork

Rooted down deep on her wallow, her whole body

Lit with gold chaff.

By morning she was famous.

And when we found Gustafson, he was rocking

In the middle of his pigsty,

Staring west toward the county line.

And all we could hear was the rain

And its thin ticking against the leaves,

The empty swill pail still vibrating in his hands.

- "Tornado" by Robert Hedin, as it appears in the collection Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems about Pigs edited by James Lenfestey, published by Red Dragonfly Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.