Me and Chickens (Or My Life Experiences with Domestic Fowl)

By on Feb 3, 2018 in Featured, Poetry

Hen and rooster

Eggs a la Grandma, sunny-side up, slicked with bacon grease.
Oozing pools of sunlight, sopped up with fresh bakery rolls, seasoned with family fealty.

Grandpa egged us on: “How full are you?”
“This full,” we’d answer, pointing to the middle of our foreheads;
pink young things packed with egg-y stuffing.

As a foil-covered, chocolate oval: the tastiest way to consume an egg.

Do African farmers who harvest cocoa beans know what a chocolate egg tastes like?
What if someone told them how much people pay for gourmet chocolate?
Perhaps it’s better they never find out.

Fluffy, puffy, yellow tufts wobbling on stick feet
like top-heavy clowns that pop from jacks-in-the-box.
Peep.

Becoming gangly pullets and cockerels, scratching the pebbled ground,
too fat to fly.

A noisy lot. Coo, cluck, buck-buck-bawk, bra-a-a-a-awk, oodol-ri-oo.

Danes say kykkeliky. French, cocorico. Germans, kickeriki.
Dutch, kukeleku. Bulgarians, kukurigu. Italians, chicchirichi.
Cock-a-doodle-doo.

We hatched a batch and watched them grow.
When they were big, they laid for us.
My job: clean the poopy eggs.

Poopy eggs:
Gross, slimy, and foul.

“You hold the chickens; Mark will chop the heads off.”
I don’t think so.
“Mark, you do it and I’ll stand over here and watch.”

A chicken’s body can race around without a head for over a minute
while spinal nerves continue to shoot impulses to the brain.
The record:  Mike the Headless Chicken, who strutted for
eighteen months after the dreaded axe missed his brain stem.
(I’m not making this up.)

Question: What’s worse than cleaning poopy eggs?
Answer: Cleaning the remaining guts and gore from plucked chicken bodies.

If butchering animals were up to me, we’d all be vegetarians.

A chicken raised and butchered at home tastes different than
plastic-wrapped, prepackaged thighs, legs, breasts and whole birds at the grocery store.

And Bulgarian chickens taste different than American ones.

Little known fact: chickens squawk and peck when people purloin their eggs. 

Egg collecting is an interesting activity to do with a high school sweetheart.

After I leave home, chicken fun continues without me.

 Should I be worried that my mother and brother are throwing
holiday parties for the chickens with stringed popcorn for decoration?

One never knows when poopy egg-cleaning skills will come in handy.

No one washes the eggs you buy in Bulgaria.
And those white filaments suspended in the albumen like canned fruit in molded jello
turn into miniature BBs when cooked.

Those early days in Iraq were made of confusion and improvisation.
“So we had a contest,” my son the Marine says.
“We bought chickens at the local market.
The first one to kill, pluck, and gut his bird was the winner.”
Wait for it.
“A farm boy from Arkansas beat me by less than ten seconds.”

Out of his three deployments, the first was the best for my son.
The military machine lacked the oil of bureaucracy at the beginning.
I’m not sure the chickens would agree.

 Chickens.

And the squawk goes on.

About

During those days when Lisa Clark was tasked with cleaning the poopy eggs, her mother told her it was a skill she might be able to use later in life. Turns out she was right; in Bulgaria, where Lisa has lived for nearly twenty years, eggs are sold unwashed (which is as gross as it sounds.) Besides egg washing, Lisa writes primarily fiction. She is second place winner of the 2017 Yeovil Literary Prize in the Writing Without Restrictions category. Her work has appeared in various publications including After Effects: A Zimbell House Anthology, Best Modern Voices, v 2, The Alligator, Strange Fictions, and BlazeVOX. She is currently working on a YA novel about Virtual Reality.