To the Dark Barn
There was also a silo and a corn crib that huddled at dusk
under the crowning stars—then the unease of gray geese hardly audible
murmuring into their wings.
Behind me the windmill groaned
and the bone-like structure of its steely legs shadowed
my hunched progress:
while I watched
for the hatch of light as the barn door
tore the darkness open
and I approached because something
had pursued, had beckoned.
At the Chicken Cemetery
One at a time, their heads fly off. Bodies leap
then spasm to stillness, flattening
the grass. For gravestones, clumps of tall grass
doused in blood. Does it ever pass from red to rust?
No one tells me. Feet held, they're dunked
in a tank of boiling water, the cord
of the electric heater snaking toward the barn.
We all pluck them, wet feathers sticking to our hands
and shaken to the grass, white peonies soaked by rain.
Inside, the singeing and gutting: slurp and suck
of entrails that shake the table as the women agree,
Forty birds is a good day's work.
I stand at the sink, accept what I am allowed
to handle—gizzards I slice along the seam
without piercing the crop. Giblets for stuffing.
I pare carefully around each globe
as if it were a peach, parting it, hips pressed
to the drain board, refusing to be tired.
At eight, I am as conscientious as my grandmother,
whose praise I will wait for all day,
whose image I can't blink out of mind: she'd catch
each chicken in the yard, bundle its gnarled feet
in one strong hand, then talk to it in the same voice
she used telling stories at night, The Little Red Hen,
The Bremen Town Musicians. And just as I did
on the pillow, each bird lay down its head
without protest on the block, closed its eyes
and failed to see what was coming with such speed
and force. She does not waste anything, I think. The dogs
have probably eaten all the chicken heads by now.
Tracy Youngblom is the author of Driving to Heaven, (Parallel Press, 2010). New poems are forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Ruminate, and Weave magazine.