Dispatching the Chicken
We tie her feet together, hang her from
the oak tree, upside down. We’d read that that
would be humane, would hypnotize her, the old
hen grow submissive, die a happy woman.
Just take an awl, the book said, place it on
the beak, thrust it quickly up into the
brain. A piece of cake. A walk on the beach.
She stares us in the eyes, unblinking. Dusk
is coming on. The awl. And terror pours
forth in a cascade of cries, ringing out
across the farmyard, through the woods, across
the lake. Chickens’ brains are small! The
awl misses again and again. The evening
is upside down. It pierces us in waves.
Note: the last words of each line, read vertically top to bottom, form a haiku
by the Japanese poet Issa.
RON WALLLACE's twelve books include, most recently, Long for This World: New & Selected Poems, and For a Limited Time Only, both from the University of Pittsburgh Press. He co-directs the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and edits the University of Wisconsin Press poetry series (Brittingham and Pollak prizes). Married, with two grown daughters and five grandchildren, he divides his time between Madison and a 40-acre farm in Bear Valley, Wisconsin.