The black chick lives in a birdcage at night under a clean washcloth that
Somehow simulates for it the warmth and comfort of its own hen mother that
was murdered by a dog.
My mom knows chickens.
In the evenings she shuts them up in their coops made of random boards and rusty
nails and various strips of wire. The birds gather on her home made roosts within their
Respective pens like miniature ships fastened to their moorings, œI’m missing a hen, my mother says, œI haven’t seen her in a while and I think she’s settin on
A nest somewhere,
“That’s good, I say, not knowing any better, “No that’s bad, my mom says,
“The last thing I need is more chicks to watch after ..I’m selling eggs for
a dollar a dozen. “I need more eggs not more chickens.
The next day she points out her picture window and exclaims “Goddamn it . I knew it!
There, in the cool of a desert morning, is a small, red hen scratching in the dirt
With six tiny chicks, five yellow and one black
Alive only hours they are glued to their mother’s right foot, or paw, or claw, or
Whatever you call it,
receiving lessons in scratching and pecking, scratching and pecking, scratching
The seemingly mundane life of chickens everywhere but when you see such a thing, a mother hen teaching it to newly hatched chicks you
can almost believe in god.
Every single morning for perhaps a month my mom will take the black chick from
under the washcloth in the birdcage in her spare bathroom to a
fortress, individual, pen-like thing that she has built in her flower garden,
There it will spend its day learning about dirt and bugs and heat and other dangerous things but in the evening come hell, hail, or high water she will catch the thing
with wily cunning and superior tactics,
Returning it to its bird cage with her weathered, wrinkled mother hands
Her forearms bloody from the scratches and cuts of the rusted wire.
This morning only three chicks are left.
“Snakes must of got the other three, my mother says as if simply stating a fact of life
which in fact she was.
Apparently snakes like tiny chickens almost as much as they like fresh eggs and
my mother loathes all of them, those snakes.
She hates them foremost I think because they appear to her dishonest and not straight
forward as far as creatures go, they slither around behind your back and they
hide under two-by-fours and other heaps of junk that you might need to build another chicken pen someday.
You just can’t trust them and they bite unsuspecting old ladies as readily
as they would strike a mouse
and they’re everywhere all the time ..doing something strange.
Two red hens weave back and forth through the stand of cane like
Carnival jugglers beneath a stern desert sun,
Tiny silhouettes of shadow and light blending in the bleached out wreckage
Of midsummer desert oasis and garden,
They call them “game hens because I guess in truth they are pretty gamey and
They survive better than the famous breeds in spite of their size
Like the seeds of the wild grasses as opposed to the flourishing hybrid blends more
Suited to natural living they eschew any pretense of cozy, coup, chicken
Pampering, never to be murdered with beheading they
Play their games and my mom plays hers, searching every creepy crevice and snake infested nook for those precious eggs, those tiny miracles of creation ceaselessly and
meticulously hidden each sunrise by
My mother’s birds.