What I Am Telling You, Jessica, Is That Those Chickens Are Fine

By K.T. Landon

                                                                                                                For Jessica Jacobs

You say that a poem that contains a fox
and a henhouse must, at some point, include
a slaughtered chicken, that the rifle on the mantel
must go off in Act Three. But what I am telling you
is that my neighbor has built his coop to last
and surrounded it with a sturdy double fence
of chicken wire, and that that fox is out of luck
this time. And I know that good news for the chickens
is bad news for some vole or field mouse or hapless
housecat. So maybe all I’ve done is point that gun
in another direction or into another poem, but this
is a poem in which no chickens will die. A rabbit
will bound across the road and the car will slow
in time. The fox will discover the trampoline behind
the house next door and with it the wonder of flight.
Everyone I love will live and call me after supper
to say goodnight. My neighbor is a good man,
a minor god who has brought forth a paradise
for chickens. And I know those chickens, clucking
contentedly in their self-important obliviousness,
are too foolish to be a metaphor for hope
(though isn’t hope always foolish?) but in this poem
the chickens stand for joy—for feed scattered
with a free hand and fresh water in the trough,
for a swept house and a warm nest, for the sun
and the breeze and friends to admire your glorious,
feathered self and this single, glorious day.
And we’re in pretty deep now, aren’t we,
speculating about the Inner Life of Chickens,
but can you doubt, watching them watching us,
that they have one? That they, too, understand
the urgency of this still and incandescent moment
that is here and leaving already? I know
it’s not always this way. The gun goes off
eventually. One night the latch will fail to catch
or a hinge will rust through, and the fox will bring
terror and death, as foxes do. Every story ends
with a corpse. But, Jessica, it’s not Act Three yet.
My neighbor, the chickens, the fox, you, me—
we love what we love for as long as we can.
Right now, in this blue and breathing hour
that shines inside us all, those chickens are fine.

K. T. Landon is the author of Orange, Dreaming (Five Oaks Press, 2017) and received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poems have ap- peared or are forthcoming in The Sun, The Southern Review, Nimrod, Spillway, Narrative, and Best New Poets. Landon is a reader for Lily Poetry Review.

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