Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts
Fiction   /   Nonfiction   /   Poetry

Chicken Yard

by Jan Lamberg


It’s August in the Garden State,
steamy South Jersey where
new in May, my shoes
rub at the toe.
Farm clod-hoppers thwart
ring-worm, rusty nails–
for these feet,
nightfall’s pond, crickets,
can’t sing soon enough.

Compost bowl pail clanging,
I reach the chicken yard;
Every step a dong–
their signal-alarm,
Indian-file run,
necks, guillotine-flat,
hens skid short,
opaque spurs sinking into grass.
Wings like sails, they fan,
command rain–
dripping watermelon rinds.

I toss up cantaloupe skins–
hungry beaks,
scolding, tearing,
they miss now and then;
hen-pecked ochre feet feel good.

Rooster eyes me red–
he wants a rind to himself
but spurring my back or
gorging on plucked,
sun-burnt calves
would be dessert.

Not humming this morning,
a maiden off-key,
I’m choking on sweat streaming,
curving my chin, salting my
gums, my tongue–
I spit.

If only I could cover my ears–
the hens, pincushion crowns,
wattles cocked, scolding, waiting–
brothel’s bedlam–
drinking more than pecking
at the half-moons.
They crowd me—
I’m reprieve from Rooster’s bite.

I’m where he wants me:
at mid-crow, Rooster’s triumph.
Dust settles, hens know,
frenzy of wings while
mother-of-pearl-tail Rooster
and I face off.
At arm’s length
yesterday’s stick leans
on rusty plow.
   I pull from the yard’s shadow,
   I will bend and dive
   he knows I will
   aim for his head;
quiet now, hens work rinds
to skin, smooth as fly paper.

Most days,
hens long dead,
coq au vin–
still facing Rooster;
jaws, knuckles clenched,
head sunken into shoulders,
I, he, running in my sleep.