From house to house, my sisters and I knocked
on our neighbors’ doors and once let in we tiptoed
into their kitchens, or beyond, onto cement patios
where we emptied their tin cylinders of leftover foods
into plastic pails filling up with slop to feed our pigs.
Unlike clear water from a well, the stews stank
with syrupy, creamy mixtures of discarded meals:
sour rice, rotten fruits, foamy bread, fish gills.
At times, on our rounds, we encountered classmates
and slinked back in embarrassment. We never got
used to it. As with the rich homes we were allowed
in by maids who all looked like our aunts. Hit bottom
on the food chain. We began to resent the swine,
those faultless, omnivorous, gluttonous ungulates
in their domesticated, pink-eyed, curly-tailed splendor.
But when our mother called out her order, we obeyed—
we were respectful, fearful children—our schoolwork
could wait. We marched dizzily into the late afternoon
heat to collect again and again the refuse of human
consumption. In the fading light, echoes of porcine
squeals, we strained from lifting our pails’ mounting
weight. Inevitably, our arms buckled, the swill
sloshed and splattered over our hands, legs, whole
young lives, splashes of throwaway and waste.