I took a new poem-in-progress into the writers’ group on Tuesday. Its title is La Matanza – the Spanish word for slaughter or massacre.
It’s a piece that I’ve been intending to write ever since we bought the house in the village and were told the guy couldn’t come to prune the trees on the long December puente as he’d be busy with la matanza.
In most parts of Spain, a cada cerdo le llega su San Martín – pigs get what’s coming to them on November 11th – but it seems that in our village it’s more traditional for the pig slaughter to take place on the feast of la Inmaculada.
That juxtaposition of the innocence and virginal white of the immaculate conception with the sheer red-blooded traditional country ritual of pig slaughter seems to be crying out for a poem to be written.
At the moment, though, the piece I have consists of an atmospheric build up, which I think works relatively well, and a far less successful ending.
So, on Tuesday, I found myself thinking about why I can’t get the ending right. I’m pretty sure the problem is simply that I haven’t witnessed the slaughter.
I can imagine the early morning walk cross country to the pig sty, as I do that often enough myself. And I’ve seen pigs on a number of occasions after they’ve been slaughtered. I’ve even heard it happen. But I haven’t actually seen the killing. Which makes it all too easy to fall back on clichés.
So far this year, the pigs next door are alive and grunting. As a vegetarian, I was slightly worried on Tuesday to find myself telling the other writers that if I knew in advance when the neighbour was going to kill them, the poet in me felt I ought to try and be there to see it for myself.
I know they say we should write about what we know, but perhaps this time I’ve chosen a subject I’d rather not know about.