For the Hens

Ellis Gibson

Hens peck the ground, kick

their feet, stride around

wobble-wattled, bright-eyed,

proud and prim. I love them

all; I admire one, who,

in a snit, hits wing-tips

against her sister, pecks

a bloody feather off,

leaves mottled gray skin bare,

and blinks yellow, pleased. Struts

in the fence don’t keep me

out — but when I’m seen, they

scatter and flee. My trick

is easing round the side

where bushes cast shadows

and leaning there, teeth sharp

as rooster spurs, until

I’m sure. Then straight for them.

The birds craft their eggs, bide

their broody time to hatch

the chicks, and I’ve bided

too, let hunger scratch down

my throat, fed my children

on thin milk, crept at night

to scout near the henhouse.

Light hours: harder to hide,

but the girls are outside,

the chance is mine. I want

to kiss their necks, loving

where the farmer’s fist chokes.

I am a mother,

therefore twice the fox. Know

as I do: blood’s meant to

bleed, hens to feed on wheat.

My mouth is not for love stories

but to open up and eat.

Ellis Gibson is a transgender, disabled poet most recently educated as an undergraduate at The Ohio State University. Ellis has had more encounters with chickens than with foxes, and is interested in manipulating language to approach the unsayable word, story, memory, or body.