“Andrew Describes How to Slaughter Chickens” by Edward Derby

Edward Derby


You stick the chicken’s head through a hole
in a bucket. There’s no guillotine or ax,
just a little sharp knife to cut their throats,
and you say, “Goodbye little chicken” and slit,
slit, slit. It takes a couple minutes for them to bleed.
Then you dunk them, again and again
in scalding water, to loosen the skin, but
not so hot that it starts to cook them.
Into the electric feather plucker with its rotating
rubber fingers. In ten seconds they’re naked.
Into the ice bath, then the evisceration station.
Cut their butts without getting poop everywhere,
reach inside, all the way up to the neck
and pull all the stuff out. It’s not an anatomy
lesson. You have to go back
for the bean-like glands, the lungs and trachea.
Chop off the feet. Stuff the cavity with ice, into
the freezer. Fifty chickens in five hours.
When the children come around, curious,
you say, “Now go on, you don’t want to watch this.”
But then they kind of hang around anyway.

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017

[download audio]


Edward Derby: “My grandmother in Massachusetts and my grandfather in Florida both recited poetry, often at busy family dinners. Everyone stopped and listened. I was captivated both by the conjuring of the poems and the transformation of the clangorous dining rooms into places of poetic contemplation. My grandparents became vessels for something larger than themselves. I write to give myself over to, and search for, that larger world that connects us. I write to relive that wonder, to construct my own version of it. I write for quiet rooms and haunted grandchildren.” (web)

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