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© 2010 Susan Newark
The chickens are all talking; when I’m in the garden walking, I can hear the chickens talking—on the land. Their voices are not squawking; my brain’s seeping through the caulking; I can hear the chickens talking—and understand.
They’re discussing all the laying, a favorite nesting box awaiting; a clucking tenant is vacating—and she’s proud. A secret clutch of eggs is growing; in twelve boxes few are showing, secluded in the private knowing—of the crowd. They’ve been bred for anti-brooding, but generations are alluding to behaviors not intruding—and allowed. So they enjoy each clutch in zeal, a few moments at the wheel to reflect on how they feel—disavowed.
The chickens are awaiting extra snacks they find so sating, rush the gate anticipating—all the while. Hens are gathered at my feet, what’cha got they all entreat, bobbing heads they do repeat—they beguile. A few bowls of special mash, rice and oatmeal in a hash, behinds flashing from the stash—just their style. Scattered pieces of a peach, craning necks so all can reach; second helpings they beseech—and I smile.
I dump a great big pile of leaves, full of morsels each believes, swishing feet in joyous heaves—in the sun. There are daily baths of dust, removing parasites a must, communal games for which they lust—and it’s fun. Dip a wing down in the dirt, flip it up and be alert, closing eyes so it won’t hurt—then they’re done. I call them each a different name; no two eggs laid are the same, personalities aflame—yet they’re one.
They’re discussing all the weather; under oak they squat together till the sun is gone forever—slipped away. Then they march on to the coop, calling neighbors with a whoop, up slatted ramp onto the stoop—no delay. Soon they hop up on their perch, leaving no bird in the lurch, and settle down as though in church—where they stay. Shut the door now don’t be late; keep us safe from foxy fate; we close our eyes in restful wait—for next day.
* * * * * *
The chickens are all talking; I can hear the chickens talking, when asleep at night and balking—in my dreams. Their voices fairly squawking, my brain’s victim to the stalking; I can hear the chickens talking—of the schemes.
In factory farms concealing cages stacked up to the ceiling are claims that chickens have no feeling—they don’t cry. But they can hardly turn around; shit reeks up from concrete ground; no pecking order to be found—in the sty. Their legs are weak from squatting; joints are twisted always knotting; internal muscles are all rotting—never spry. Cut off beak a special favor, so they will not peck a neighbor; the day’s egg the only labor—we deny. And amid those massive rooms, forever choking on the fumes, the conveyor belt always looms—till they supply.
Please buy humanely-produced animal products.
"Fowl Talk" was previously published in Flashback: Collected Poems, 2017.