The neighbor’s chicken
escapes on a regular basis.
There is something
about the dirt
in the yard two doors up
that she prefers.

He gathers her up
in his arms
and scolds her
with words
I have forgotten.
The next day
she is back
and the next.

I see the neighbors
returning her to
the confines
of her own fence,
holding her close
as her owner does.

I myself
have a fear
of chickens,
of foul in general,
from an untimely
run in
with a mean rooster
at an early age.
He nearly blinded me
I’ve been told and
my father shot him
without remorse.

I came to know
this story one summer
and to reconcile it
against my father’s
urge to shoot
a B.B. gun at
his neighbor’s dog
who barked all
night, as country
dogs seem to do.

I can’t remember now the exact order of events,
just the urgent sense
in the collision of
our wills,
my hand on his arm
in the moment I knew
I would never succeed
against this underside
of what protected me
as a child,
if it put its mind
to killing.

That summer
the chickens he raised
flew over the fence
and it always scared me
when they did.
He told me about
the rooster then,
though he was not one
to be into that
sort of psychology,
as a rule.

I am gradually
warming up to this hen,
talking to her
when I pass her
scratching in the dirt.
I like the color,
I want to say
of her hair,
but, of course, it is
a lovely russet red
that shines in
the afternoon sun,
something I have
only gotten close to
in a hat.