A Poem by Mark Leidner

Pearls Before Swine

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s casting pearls before swine. Therefore, whenever I’m surrounded by swine, I never cast pearls. I hold them back and cast other things that are more appropriate to swine, like acorns, bullets, and pennies.

Then, when the swine are gone, I put the bullets and acorns away, and start re-casting pearls. Then I cast pearls until I run out of pearls, or until the return of the swan. I mean, swine.

Sometimes, even when I’m surrounded by swine, all I have is pearls—because I ran out of pennies or acorns earlier, or I never had any of either—so again I have to forego casting pearls until the swine finally leave.

Sometimes I have to spend huge amounts of time on my knees, begging, sweet-talking the swine, trying to get them to go somewhere else, trying to convince them I don’t have any pearls, or even acorns, and that they are wasting their lives waiting for them.

Another shitty situation I face is when some of my friends want me to cast pearls before swine, and I’m torn by my duty to be a good friend, and my duty to uphold my own moral code.

My friends will be like Hey, we’re having a pearl-casting party. We want you to come and bring all the swine you know. We’re going to cast pearls before them like there’s no tomorrow. And I’m like nodding, telling them Sure. You can count on me. I’ll bring all the swine I can.

I don’t consider this a lie because all the swine I can bring to a pearl-casting party is zero. I consider the verb ‘can’ to be in regard to a moral labor, not a physical one.

Sure, I can physically do a lot of things that I can’t actually do because I couldn’t live with myself if I did it, and so, that’s how I define the verb ‘can.’

If you think about it, if someone asks you if you can murder them in their sleep, I don’t think they’re talking about your physical ability to hold the pillow down on their face. They’re talking about the psychological difficulty of the choice.

Though even this simple example usually earns me stares of confusion from my friends, who love casting pearls so indiscriminately that they don’t care who they cast them before, and cannot understand my resistance to pearl-casting no matter how elaborate my justification. Why I would resist casting pearls before swine to them is incomprehensible, but to me, it’s simply this: a waste.

To cast a pearl before swine is contrary to a pearl’s purpose, which is to be valuable. Since value is subjective, anything with value has to be agreed upon to have value for at least two people, and since a pearl is pretty and smooth, and rare and hard, and white, it is agreed upon to have value because people like pretty, smooth, rare, hard, white things. But pigs don’t care about anything’s prettiness or smoothness or rareness or hardness or whiteness. Pigs only care if something is food, sex, or comfort.

If you support casting pearls before swine, it’s like working your ass off at a factory for no reason. It’s like working the nightshift, and not being able to spend time with your family, but then at the end of the week, you also don’t get a paycheck. You just have to work. No money, no bonus, no benefits. Just more work.

How would you feel if your whole life was worth nothing? And nothing came of it? You would be like a dog staring up at a Rembrandt. Or a single-cell amino acid stranded on some random meteorite in space. Or a really good baseball player in primordial times, back before there was baseball, or even civilization.

Sometimes I feel like that too. Sometimes I feel like a massive swine pearls are being cast before. Like at sunset. Or every time it snows. Or when I have sex and the girl is on top. Or sometimes when I’m not trying to be funny, but I get a laugh.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Leidner Mark Leidner

Mark Leidner writes criticism for Poets on Film and is the author of several chapbooks, most recently Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me [Factory Hollow Press, 2011].

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