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)