“For Those Who Would Kill Chickens” by Amy Miller

Amy Miller


I wish I could show you
how we saved him. Named him
Steven, stupid name
for a chicken, but
when he wandered
out from the woods,
black sheen hooked
with leaves and the crazy
red rubber of his comb,
we had to call him
something. I thought
Lucky after a horse
stomped him so hard—
caught in the corral
like a mouse in traffic—
then maybe Rip
when he tucked his head
in the elbow of the foreman’s
wife and fell asleep
in her arms. Steven,
she whispered—who knows,
some baby or a friend
long gone—and it stuck.
I could show you
my sandwiches he pulverized,
his crooked Jagger dance
on the paddock’s dusty stage,
how each of us came
to grudgingly help
this alien flown from some
coop, how a thing
like that takes root
on a shelf in a dark
tack room, settling
on an overshirt you meant
to take home that now
is sacrificed—no matter—
to this thing you’ve named,
that needs you. Each night
we closed and locked
that door against whatever
was out there
that hadn’t yet learned
his name or the iridescence
of his weak and perfect wings.

Poets Respond
October 5, 2014


Amy Miller: “I keep thinking about what I would say to those four teenagers who broke into a Foster Farms barn near Fresno on Tuesday night and brutally killed 920 chickens for no apparent reason. This is one of those stories that send me to the depths of despair and make me think that we humans don’t deserve this good thing we have on this planet. But I realized, after the initial thoughts of vengeance—always tempting, like a stiff drink—that what I really wished for those kids was a time capsule to take them back to some place where they could make a connection with an animal, just one, to know it in their bones and carry that feeling to that later fork in their lives, when maybe they would have made a different choice. I guess I wish them love, as clichéd and ineffectual as that sounds. There’s a lot of talk right now about whether empathy is overrated. But I think empathy is our gift as a species, one of the best uses of our unusual brains. We simply haven’t used it to its fullest yet; we haven’t evolved enough to live up to it. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.” (web)

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