26. The Chickenhouse

Those chickens wouldn’t
Come off of their roost.
They pressed in toward each other
On the perch,
Huddled, with their soft heads
Sullen, low.
They rocked their necks slowly
Left to right,
Clucking–warning purrs
From deep inside.
Sun fell through the wood slats,
Here and there,
Lighting peering eyes.

“Those chickens got to come.”
Riah poked her head inside.
If kept in too long,
They’d get to pecking
Till they pecked up blood.
Blood smell drove them wild–
They’d screech, rear up, flapping,
Fly up, slaughtering themselves,
Leaving bodies in their mess
Along the walls.
“Chicks!” She waved her arm
And then withdrew, dropping
Grain outside their door.
Their house stank;
The chickens blinked at her.
They stayed right where they were.

Hand at her back waist,
She straightened up.
“No coyotes,” she mused.
In the dry air,
Tongue stuck to her teeth.
Riah licked her lips.
What the cause?
She reviewed the day. James
Fussed when sent to school;
He never did.
Tom picked at his ham,
Said it was raw.
Mr. Miller
Saw a bird out of a snake.
The hens, too tight for eggs.

She looked up.
Thin dark band
Lay over the horizon,
Far northwest:
Orange-brown, dusky rind
Arching its back.
“Dust again,
So soon?” she asked,
Surprised.

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