Free Range

My father, cocky and crested
like a rooster, preens. He pecks
at my skin—thin, porcelain: “Why can’t you
be more like your little sister? A true
spring chicken. You, you brood
like an old hen.” He brushes
my wind-burned cheek, pressing
his palm into the egg
noodle. At my throat he thumbs
my dead mother’s cameo.
In this pecking order, I sow
chicken feed, dress pullets
in sage, thyme, peppercorn.
Fryers crackle, sizzle.
They’re so foul, I mutter.  Like my mother, I detest
the filthy, feathery creatures, the cock
in particular.  He struts, kicks
barley groats, stirs up alfalfa, small chick-peas.
His chicks, short-footed, scurry after him, pecking
at chicken feed, dividing
their attention. He glowers, derides
them, his talons grab at chicken coop wire.  The rooster
ruffles my feathers.  He paces
alongside the elm-shaded picket fence
like a yard bird, counting
his steps, doing
his time. Waiting for deliverance.
I wield the axe, brandishing
its blunted blade, his neck
chopped haphazard. Jagged. He staggers, his hackles
feather chicken coop wire.
I rule
the roost now, taking
my turn, twirling
a circle dance, crowing kukuku. A cappella.

Originally published in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, vol. 28, no. 1 (2014)