06 May 2011

urban chickens

Cheryl’s constant attack on the others
made wringing her neck easy.
That left sweet Sheila, Gita,
funny little Francis, and Mabel.
Yadi did not have the heart for more slaughter.
Gita’s eyes held reproach,
Francis ran circles round his feet, and
Sheila shuddered on the passenger seat.

Screeching, Mabel charged Yadi.
She was the next to go.
Grabbing Mabel’s neck,
Yadi stepped from the bus
and wrung it.
Two down, three to go.

Five years earlier Randy, Jim and Pryor
converted Phil’s old VW bus
into a coop for chickens-
one named for each roomate's mother.

Since that day, Randy and Yadi
turned cooking eggs into art.
Every day the men devoured eggs.
Strata, soufflés, quiche, and frittatas
scrambled, over easy, and baked.

When the city condemned their house,
they chose to make a meal of their momma hens.

Randy, Jim, and Phil held the three remaining girls.
Yadi and Pryor sang a whacked out version
of the Ozark Mountain Daredevil’s Chicken Train
while three necks twisted then
simultaneously snapped.
The men settled in to plucking the birds
and telling tales
about these five feathered friends.

Too much wine with dinner
led to turn-taking
with sledge hammers
to bash the bus in.

Randy squawked
a fine imitation of Francis,
flapping his arms
and dancing circles
through their yard.

Yadi chanted and started a fire in the pit.

The five of them sat
facing flame, feeding it,
filling it with wood and stories,
watching one another
drum the earth
until dawn
colored the edges
of the sky.

Ten days later,
right before dusk,
the fire department
burned their house
to the ground.

From across the street,
the men watched it disappear.
Yadi said,
“If I was God,
I would be fire.
Fire keeps people humble.
Fire leaves only ash.
Fire annihilates with no remorse.”

Then his voice broke.
Yadi grabbed his head in both hands and said,
“I cannot tell my mother I ate Gita for dinner.”

This is a (mostly) true story. When the Big Tent asked us to revise a piece, I went straight to Urban Chickens. It didn't require a huge revision. I played with line breaks, changed the phrasing a bit, and did some general polishing.

Head over to Big Tent Poetry and take a gander at some more poems that were revisited this week by their constructors.


Anonymous said...

It's all a little Electra complex for me!

Dick said...

This is terrific. A wonderful piece of narrative, but quintessentially poetic in its manner of telling and in its reflective, almost lyrical conclusion. Well worth its refurbishment!

Mary said...

That is quite a tale, Brenda; and to think it is mostly true. It held my attention from start to finish; and I could picture these men and their chickens.

Marianne said...

A fascinating story, beautifully told; intriguing and very entertaining!

Elizabeth said...

Brenda, this was so real, I could see it, feel it, even hear it. Wonderful tale, and even lyrical. Glad you pulled it from wherever it was stored.


flaubert said...

I agree Brenda this is fantastic. Well worth a bit of revision.


Anonymous said...

A good inventive write..and as far as those chickens were concerned...y'all were God. Really painted a vivid picture of the events. vb

vivinfrance said...

Your story was so entertaining I had to read it again, letting rip the laughter. We had urban chickens during the war, when the ration of eggs was one per week. They mostly died of old age.

Linda said...

I see it all and even believe it all--even though it's only mostly true. The narrative flows.

brenda w said...

It thrills me that you all like this, and makes me wish I was still in touch with Yadi and the gang. The untruths:
1) They did not smash the bus with sledge hammers.
2) They did not wring their necks themselves, they had a friend butcher them.
3)Yadi talked about fire being a good form for God at an earlier fire in the yard.

These guys were all physics majors at Montana State. Their condemned house was a rental near the university. They were ticked off at the city of Bozeman. They loved that big old house. The only room that was really worthy was the kitchen. An oh could Randy and Yadi cook. Yadi was from Iran---he introduced me to basmati rice.

I'm glad I chose this piece for revision. Your comments make me feel good after a long hard week.
Thank you,

Tumblewords: said...

Wow! What a fine story! Well done tell.

Henry Clemmons said...

Big time enjoyable read. Love the whole story and the skill used to tell it. Great read.

Mr. Walker said...

Brenda, this is so good. You had me from that first line, and it just flowed; the story unfolding was fun to follow and your language and the stanzas just work so well. And the take on fire is incredible - "filling it with wood and stories" - and the second to last stanza. Thanks.


nan said...

What a story, Brenda!! I love the stanza with Yadi talking about fire. I could nearly smell a whiff of smoke. Nicely told. All the names were fun to follow...

cathy said...

Excellent story and poem. Love the images you presented.

Stafford Ray said...

For some reason this clicked. Maybe it was the insanity of being a human dealing with chickens (who are always sane).

lucychili said...

mm powerful