V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




The boy cradles a pullet against his red
shirt, while he sits on a hay bale.
The small round arms, those young
limbs a nest of space in the air.
His father watches wondering if the calm
bird can feel his son’s heart, that maybe
it feels close to the hen’s own beat.
His boy looks up, brown eyes
searching his father recognizing
this love before the chicken clucks
and the boy begins to stroke the mottled
brown and black neck, the tips of his
fingers combing the chicken the way
the man has felt his son’s hair in the night.
The last time he felt a bird’s neck the shotgun
blast had broken the goose’s wing and pellets
had punctured the breast and side.
The bird flopped in the shallows until
the man held him by his sleek black neck;
dark eyes, like gems, glassed with fear.
He should not have looked in them.
It would have been easier
with a clean shot.  So he rested
the Remington on the soft earthen
bank of the pond and held the goose,
two hands wringing the way he wrung wet
towels over the gray, stone laundry sink.
The goose made a gargling sound, a snap.
He could taste the scotch in his mouth,
the round cold metal of the flask on his lips
back in the blind, afternoon light fading.
He wants it again. He feels the distance
death brings, straw and mud, the gold
leaves of fall at the feet of his son.
The young hen chortles in the small arms.
He glances skyward to the light and wind.
She feels safe with you, he says.

  © by Jeff Knorr



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