Chickens

Grandfather’s barn, a coop of souls in purgatory

dark as Calcutta, redolent with dust and droppings

inhabited by ghosts and ghouls and squawks

its door bangs closed on rusted springs, as I

 

Basket in hand, bend to collect the eggs, the specters

turn to scuttling shadows, pirates, executioners,

cackling queens whose syllables screech commands:
walk the plank, heave ho my hearties, off with her head

 

My basket full of stones and curses, mocks me

hurry, hurry, mixes my blood with theirs’

 

On days before Sabbath and festivals, Grandfather

would step into the barn, crank open a shutter to light

his crime, then plunging arm into a cage, select plump

victim, carry it off struggling, to place its neck

between two nails protruding from a block of wood

 

Task completed he would plunge it into a pail,

return the hatchet to its hook, crank close the shutter.

It’s hard to reconcile those pirates and those crimes

with the steaming soup and crispy roast grandmother prepared

 

Hard to reconcile conscience and appetite, a thousand

meals later, browse the meat counter for choicest thighs

all neat and pink, leanest roast, thickest slice of steak

without hearing again those curses, those threats and

admonitions, turn my head in shame or in disgust

 

Forget, ignore, resolve to eat rice and vegetables, walk away

and then walk back

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© Johnmichael Simon

2009

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