Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roosters and Hens

artwork: ralph murre

Roosters and Hens
by Wendy Vardaman

At bedtime Mother told us about growing
up on her grandparents’ farm, chasing chickens
across the yard, peering into their dark home.
How Grandfather got the axe when Grandmother

wanted a bird for the stew pot and the time
she saw a crestfallen rooster on his feet,
the head cut off. Terrified at eight or nine,
she ran blindly in the other direction,

only to have him turn and chase her toward
the fence where she set one new white-sandaled foot
on a fresh cow pie. Grandfather roared, doubling
over his blade while she cried, hopped up and down,

tried to shake the shit from her toes. The sandals
were never the same, despite Grandmother’s “Good
as new,” when she finished scratching at the straps.
Mother said she could never wear open shoes

again, and left the farm, still a girl, to work
in the city, marry my father, and buy
painted porcelain roosters that collected
there, props from an unfinished childhood. They hung

from avocado walls, crowed at the sink, caught
grease and dirt near the stove, presided over
the orange island counter top where my dad
also roosted with soliloquies and beers

he never got himself but called for from his
bar-stool perch, demanding that we leave our ranch
house coops,  yelling no matter how long it took,
Mother clucking, “Wouldn’t hurt you two to help.”

~ previously published in Appleseeds (Sacred Fools Press)