Reporting on Chickens

Kayla and I sit out of sight where the hall turns,
a short leg to the exit, with a window to view 
the outside. Outside where snow trembles

on the lip of a small rivulet and sun catches
random rings of light. She chose chickens
for her topic, because I have them, she says.

She fans the pages of notebook, looking
for where she ended while I think about Ryan
who chose sharks, who’s never seen a shark,

but wears a tooth on a string around his neck,
tells me a great white can find me in the water
by the electricity I give off, then bite my skull open

and eat my brains. Chickens, on the other hand,
have short legs and a heavy body. Males with
brightly colored feathers are roosters and then

there’s the comb on their head, a flap of extra skin.
Kayla knows all this. She tells me about a rooster
they had once who turned ugly, chased her and her sister

up the drive, pecking their legs, until they arrived home
bitten and bloody. Her father said he’d had enough
got his gun, went out, shot the chicken dead,

from the loss  in Kayla’s voice I picture
the flesh tremble, the eyes glaze, the words 
barbed wires. I watch her shoulders

pull in as she sits beside me. The smell
of bread drifts from the cafeteria. 
She picks up her pencil,  erases whole paragraphs 

until I stay her hand. Chickens, she writes, 
and then stops. My own probing only more misdirection 
as she grasps at facts. They are not always white. 

Sometimes a rooster will peck you and there is blood. 
Sometimes they eat what you give them and that is still 
not enough. Hens lay eggs and you eat them.

Tar River Review
Fall 2017