When you look another creature in the eye
even if the creature is a chicken with a serious
beak, you expect that conversation
is possible. You want to be helpful,
to smooth the ruffled feathers. We believe
the language of chickens limited
to excitement, to fear, but perhaps their steps
through the dusty yard map out a journey?
Bees, after all, return to the hive
with directions for the colony, and even ants
mark their trails for the legions to follow.
Why not these round eyed creatures,
who would have much to say, if we could
decipher their gestural language?
There is something to be said
for a chicken with a feathered
top knot. Already, before
proceeding to the spotted breast,
you know this is a fowl
to be reckoned with, intolerant
of excessive handling. Although
you can be assured of three eggs
more or less a week, she will
not accept confinement
flying off to roost in the trees.
At night, when the raccoons
and coyotes are out, well then,
perhaps she will negotiate.
Among our Australorps and Orpingtons,
beside the Speckled Sussex and the Black
Cuckoo Marans, four Arucanas thrive,
their sharp clawed feet scratching the upturned earth
for any caterpillar still alive
or any buried grub they may attack
in unison. Excited voices throng
with each new find: a predatory song
well understood by every other hen
in earshot. If they find a coiled snake,
they’ll crowd around, calling for all they’re worth
the warning cry, until a couple take
the first bites from its flesh, and then again
the whole flock falls upon this newest prize.
The ravaged scales coil in surprise,
in vain. It’s soon consumed. A tug of war
breaks out over torn fragments of its skin.
Savage? Perhaps. But chickens, from their birth,
are like young dinosaurs confined within
those tufts of feathers, beautiful before
you get to know the way their nature runs.