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Poem of the Day > 17.Spiritual Chickens -Stephen Dobyns

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Spiritual Chickens - Stephen Dobyns

A man eats a chicken every day for lunch,
and each day the ghost of another chicken
joins the crowd in the dining goom. If he could
only see them! Hundreds and hundreds of spiritual
chickens, sitting on chairs, tables, covering
the floor, jammed shoulder to shoulder. At last
there is no more space and one of the chickens
is popped back across the spiritual plain to the earthly.
The man is in the process of picking his teeth.
Suddenly there’s a chicken at the end of the table,
strutting back and forth, not looking at the man
but knowing he is there, as is the way with chickens.
The man makes a grab for the chicken but his hand
passes right through her. He tries to hit the chicken
with a chair and the chair passes through her.
He calls in his wife but she can see nothing.
This is his own private chicken, even if he
fails to recognize her. How is he to know
this is a chicken he ate seven years ago
on a hot and steamy Wednesday in July,
with a little tarragon, a little sour cream?
The man grows afraid. He runs out of his house
flapping his arms and making peculiar hops
until the authorities take him away for a cure.
Faced with the choice between something odd
in the world or something broken in his head,
he opts for the broken head. Certainly,
this is safer than putting his opinions
in jeopardy. Much better to think he had
imagined it, that he had made it happen.
Meanwhile, the chicken struts back and forth
at the end of the table. Here she was, jammed in
with the ghosts of six thousand dead hens, when
suddenly she has the whole place to herself.
Even the nervous man has disappeared. If she
had a brain, she would think she had caused it.
She would grow vain, egotistical, she would
look for someone to fight, but being a chicken
she can just enjoy it and make little squawks,
silent to all except the man who ate her,
who is far off banging his head against a wall
like someone trying to repair a leaky vessel,
making certain that nothing unpleasant gets in
or nothing of value falls out. How happy
he would have been to be born a chicken,
to be of good use to his fellow creatures
and rich in companionship after death.
As it is he is constantly being squeezed
between the world and his idea of the world.
Better to have a broken head—why surrender
his corner on truth?—better just to go crazy.

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee I like this - odd but good

message 3: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments I really like this Lee, where did you come across it?

message 4: by Lee (new)

Lee It's in a really good anthology called Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times - The editor has compiled a couple more anthologies which I'm thinking of getting too.

message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments How is it I have that anthology but can't remember ever reading this poem. I love the one (can't remember the title but I'll check when I'm back home, at sons at the moment) from the ex lover when she meets her replacement. It's fantastic and is one of my favourite poems to read aloud.

message 6: by Lee (new)

Lee Now that's one that I don't think I've read! Perhaps nobody ever manages to read every poem in it (some sort of magic?)

message 7: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments I've remembered - it's bitcherel

message 8: by Lee (new)

Lee Tomorrows poem then :0)

message 9: by Joy (new)

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 175 comments I've got the same anthology too - and I'd never come across either of these poems! (So it must be a magical collection!) Just looked them up and there they are however. 'Bitcherel' is wonderfully catty! I think my favourite is the one right at the beginning 'Wild Geese'.

message 10: by Lee (new)

Lee I'll schedule Wild Geese to be poem of the day shortly :0)

message 11: by Laura (new)

Laura Reinbach (lunar_c) | 1 comments Lee wrote: "It's in a really good anthology called Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times - The editor has compiled a couple more anthologies which I'm thinking of getting too."

I would recommend Being Alive, it's got another of Dobyns' poems called When a Friend. It's a little more sober than this poem.

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