Coming home late from my daughter’s preschool’s
Mother’s Day tea, a feast of banana-walnut
muffins made by those who’ll, one day,
discover elements Q and J or become
Secretary of State, but for now need
to learn to blow their small noses and wash
their three and four year old hands
before they bake. The coffee, thank the Saints,
was brewed by the young women
who teach them, by far more able
to measure and read and, who, I have no doubt
after spending the morning where the wild
things are, spend their meager disposable
income on valium and pot.
Back home, in the yard, the Rhodey lay,
back muscles exposed, feathers and skin
stripped away. Somehow the dumb hen
found her way up over the fence where
the lab waited full of all good fun and play.
Unlucky for both of us, the lab quit when she
gave up the struggle. The game ending
with the often unfortunate result of well
fed domestication. Not the quick
and merciful death of the food chain,
but the gruesome maiming in the memory
of instincts whose purpose is long forgotten.
She raises her head and looks at me.
A guttural weak bawk rolls out of her tiny
throat, a sound uncertain whether it
is a greeting or a plea to the Lady, me,
the one who comes each day with strawberry hulls
and fruit skins. There is nothing
for it but what must be done.
Hiking my long skirt with one hand, I cuff
the happy dog’s snout with the other
and hurry into the house to grab
the kitchen knife — the butcher knife.
Squinting against a late spring sun,
I grasp the tiny head, pull the neck
to bare the skin beneath the almost
iridescent red and black-red feathers.
It is easier than I expect. But I still close
my eyes. Two hard hacks cut through
the spine, cleaving the head from the body.
Around us the day heats and cicada hum.
Waking for the first time in fourteen years–
they chirp, calling out in the thousands.
Rejoicing in rebirth.
The art teacher will try to feed them, hidden
between cheese and cracker, to the fathers
when their brunch comes in a month.
But I don’t know that now.
Still dressed in my respectable best
small beaded purse slung across my shoulder,
now bloodied knife in hand, I head for the house.
I know behind me, headless, she still struggles.
Inside I wash her blood and feathers from my hands,
before I hang the crayoned portrait of a small blonde
stick figure and her dyed-red headed mother
holding hands and encircled with a heart.