poem: Killing Chickens

poem: Killing Chickens

A Chapter by Marie Anzalone

The bird's cervical vertebrae run like mountain ranges,

beneath coiled eel strong muscular cords

twitching and rolling under your hands;

slippery, like those Chinese water puzzles

you bought as a kid, and then chortled loudly with friends because

they reminded you somehow of slippery condoms,

but filled, and with two ends-

and other things you weren't supposed to know about;

For no-one would discuss death with you back then, either.


Its neck breaks suddenly, with a jolt,

just like your faith did that moment you realized

 a world composed only of right and wrong

holds no credence,

and the reality is that though you've spent

five years of school studying animals

most of those lessons were in turning them into parts-

cuts of meat, cellular suspensions, colloidal agents-

while others maximized profit from their husbandry

and only one course actually talked

about understanding the living ones

as sentient entities worthy of observation.


So it is from patient decades observing on your own

that you know this one,

the one whose heartbeats are counting down limply in your grasp;

this one had no real personality of its own,

which is probably why you chose it

to grace the table tonight;

not like that old hen with the bite marks and the crooked wattles-

those deep dark knowing eyes that weigh your actions

each time you make a selection. You won't take her

because you cannot bear the burden

of her scrutiny.


And here you are, killing chickens, 

with such capable hands-

since you never quite finished your training,

for wont of cost and time;

and for lacking that sense of worth,

 which so many of us fragile ones learn to lose first,

when our broken faith in the unseen arbiter descends us

from Heaven, Earthbound-

becoming at last simply a devaluing of assurance

in our own ability, our own creed, our own

non-boring personalities.


[like yours, which once upon a time, got you selected

 for special projects of your own; but now

lands you merely a bit part in the star performances of superiors,

with their hands on your neck, caressing,

watching you for signs of weakness, for signals that:

you are the type of person who would spare the undeserving,

because you know from killing chickens

exactly how easy it is to snap the spirit,

like that, and it's done.]


You don't need a license in this world to kill things properly,

[a crunch of breaking subterranean mountains;

small earthquakes disrupting rivers of nervous systems

and land masses of pulmonary functions]

you only need that certificate if you desire to heal with authority.

Still, even now, there are precious few who will discuss death

of small, important, living things with you

when you ask your questions;

And the irony is, the worst you've ever killed really is

just chickens.


© 2012 Marie Anzalone

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personally, i think this poem is superb, it touches on so much. the illusions of right and wrong, the ideal and the reality. this poem is cold, as it should be, with tints of personality, identity, and humor. the tone and subject match perfectly, very well done

anyone whos spent any time on a farm will relate to this. enjoyed the read

Posted 13 Years Ago

3 of 3 people found this review constructive.


Nice work. This is stunning for sure.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

with much wisdom comes much sorrow. Solomon

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is beautifully written. The way you use the killing of chickens to say something both about the human psyche and the calculating world. The poem is graphic, using macro-images such as oceans and mountains to show the gravity of killing chickens. The characterisation is superb, the way that belief in God ceases as we move beyond the absolutist, the loss of spirit, the tectonic battles, you've encapsulated all in this poem through the closely examined act of killing chickens.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You create this feeling of vastness and intimacy... scopes of thought that take us across earth and sky... and inside the darkest places of our hearts... Wanting to know what is good or evil or none of the above, your words evoke moods and magic and the richest melody of the soul.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Country girl me, seen almost too much of life and death in and at its bloodiest, most real reality. But surely this poem, this magnificent poem, is far more than the death of .. it encompasses both human strengths and weaknesses with neither arrogance nor submission, the ability to do what needs to be done, logically and without apology. I could be very wrong here but it's how it seems to me

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

gotta say i love this one!!! love the flow and word usage - makes it one of those poems you just want to read aloud. definitely going into my library of fav's!!! very well done hf - very well done!

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A superb example of an allegorical review of life and living. Although the exterior subject is death, both physical and metaphysical, the sentiment is life. How we live it. How we should live it. How we affect others' lives. How others affect ours. We each have the power to snap the spirit of another. It is that decision that makes us human, or something more.

Like the old hen, some of us have seen and known too much. Her physical battle scars echo our own emotional and mental ones. I wonder, had you tried, could her neck have been too tough to break?

An excellent piece, Marie.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I have never killed chickens, but i have watched in horror as it was done....i know i could do it if need be. And as to having spirit killed in that manner, i have heard the snap many times.
And the Earth is changing as it has for millinia, we can only do so much, and help pick up the pieces little by little with each change that occurs.

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Very visual means of showing how most of us are really just 'chickens' in life with the hands of our superiors constantly at our throats. With our livelihood literally in their hands, they have the ability to snap it at their whim. Sometimes it helps being the old hen.

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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12 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on March 15, 2011
Last Updated on August 25, 2012

A Pilgrimage in Epistles: Poems as Letters and Observations


Marie Anzalone
Marie Anzalone

Xecaracoj, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Bilingual (English and Spanish) poet, essayist, novelist, grant writer, editor, and technical writer working in Central America. "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to ta.. more..


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