Poetry, Community and Pig Pickin’s

In addition to being a truly outstanding teacher whose talents I experienced firsthand as a middle school student way back when, Henry “Fire” Walker is also the man whose family introduced me to pig pickin’s.  Over the past few decades I’ve been to countless pig pickin’s at Henry’s home.  Each one of the gatherings is characterized by delicious pigmeat and potluck sides, lively music, somewhat unpredictable pyrotechnics, enough puns that if they were burning coals they’d cook the hog themselves, and a healthy serving of community.  But don’t take my word for it, take Henry’s.

Henry wrote the following poem eight days after his most recent pig pickin’, which I regretably missed, and he gave me permission to share it here.  The poem speaks to the sense of fellowship and connection that I feel at pig pickin’s and other meals shared with good friends and family.  Without further ado…


community is a fragile, powerful living thing:fragile in its birth
as single cells reach to be multi-cellular,
to find and sing how the tones of one’s life
can harmonize and speak with the other,
and a larger, more complex organism exists,
each reach toward the other can be tentative,
almost blind in its questing, driven though,
driven to find meaning, to make meaning, to be meaning,

my wife and I pull enough out of our
introversion to answer the call of the young
to help them learn to like themselves
and to find how to realize the power within
that craves the skills to express itself,

we also, for decades, have pulled off pigpickings
through which we invite colleague, and friend, and acquaintance,
to join us for communal food, and drink, and music, and visiting,
most we invite do not find the way to us and the pigpicking,
for a lot can come between the possible and the actual,

last night, as I  enjoyed community birthing itself,
I loved the sense of creation
as the disparate become connected,
around the blazing fire,
under the defining  lights within the sheltering oak,
mesmerized by the music flowing from
the musicians’ creation and performance of their own songs,
all of this blazes against how the light can die,
a circle of good folks who become even better
by connecting with the other,

tears well up in me as I appreciate the connections made,
partly through our help,

the power of any community, once created,
is a fire that holds back all the surrounding, encroaching darkness.

by Henry H. Walker
October 30, ’11

See more of Henry’s poetry on his blog (every modern-day poet, like every BBQ nerd, needs a blog).

Hogku Part Deux

It’s been more than a year since my first attempt at the soon-to-be-timeless art of hogku (that is, haiku about barbecue).  Well, the mood struck me again at last, so here goes the fruits of 10 minutes of labor (okay, maybe 15):

Amtrak train take me
To the once-a-year station
‘Cue Festival time

Cole slaw is subtle
But accents the split between
East versus the West

Pig pickin’ time now
Harvest the tobacco field
Start again come spring

Tobacco and pork
Go together hand in glove
Smoking banned, ‘cue not

A capitol dome
Perched atop Pete Jones’ castle
Skylight Inn lives on

Pitmasters’ labor is
Rarely in view but humbles
The BBQ Jew