Sue Hubbard

 

 

Keeping Hens

 

 

She wore yellow Marigold gloves

to catch them, needed fleece-lined

rubber between their feathers

 

and her fear – the aerated bones

hollow as straws, the flapping flightless

wings – that carried them no further

 

than the shed roof when she shooed them,

to perch in the eaves away

from the murderous fox.

 

Mornings they would scramble

leap-frog over other marron backs,

wobbling liver combs and beady eyes,

 

bobbing on string necks, like prisoners

at the wire, waiting for the steaming mash

and corn she brought in a white basin.

 

She hated the giblet rawness, the scraggy

throats of those hen-pecked by the flock.

He wondered why she bothered

 

heaving the heavy meal-sacks, collecting

kitchen scraps, could not share

in the romance of it, their own fresh eggs.

 

Still she persisted; squelching ankle-deep

through March mud to collect

a mottled clutch, washing the streaked

 

lime-white shit, the caked dirt,

from warm shells beneath the running tap

as if they were all her own work.

 

 

Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist and widely published freelance art critic. A Hawthornden Fellow, her latest acclaimed novel, Girl in White, is published by Cinnamon Press. This poem will appear in her third poetry collection, The remembering and forgetting of air which is due from Salt in 2013.

 

 

One comment

  1. Valerie Morton

    Thia is such a visual poem that can be read in many ways:

    bobbing on string necks, like prisoners
    at the wire, waiting for the steaming mash
    and corn she brought in a white basin.

    brilliant. I could almost smell that steaming mash.

    And that wonderful tender ending. Thanks for a great read. It also brought back many memories of my mother and her chickens.

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