Jim Harrison


to Pat Ryan


I have to kill the rooster tomorrow. He’s being an asshole,

having seriously wounded one of our two hens with his insistent banging.

You walk into the barn to feed the horses and pick up an egg

or two for breakfast and he jumps her proclaiming she’s mine she’s mine.

Her wing is torn and the primary feathers won’t grow back.

Chickens have largely been denatured, you know. He has no part

in those delicious fresh eggs. He crows on in a vacuum. He is

utterly pointless. He’s as dumb as a tapeworm and no one cares

if he lives or dies. There. I can kill him

with an easy mind. But I’m still not up to it. Maybe I can hire

a weasel or a barn rat to do the job, or throw him to Justine,

the dog, who would be glad to rend him except the neigbors

have chickens too, she’d get the habit and we would have a beloved shot

dog to bury. So he deserves to die, having no purpose. We’ll

have stewed barnyard chicken, closer to eating a gamebird than

that tasteless supermarket chicken born and bred in a caged

darkness. Everything we eat is dead except and occasional oyster

or clam. Should I hire the neighbor boy to kill him? Will the

hens stop laying out of grief. Isn’t his long wavering crow

magnificent? Isn’t the worthless rooster the poet’s bird brother?

No. He’s just a rooster and the world has no place for him.

Should I wait for a full wintry moon, take him to the top of the

hill after dropping three hits of mescaline and strangle him?

Should I set him free for a fox meal? They’re coming back now

after the mange nearly wiped them out. He’s like a leaking roof

with drops falling on my chest. He’s the Chinese torture in the barn.

He’s lust mad. His crow penetrates walls. His head bobs in lunar

jerks. The hens shudder but are bored with the pain of eggs.

What can I do with him? Nothing isn’t enough. In the morning

we will sit down together and talk it out. I will tell him he

doesn’t matter and he will wag his head, strut, perhaps crow.

Jim Harrison

 Jim  Harrison

Well-known for his poetry, fiction, essays, and food-writing, Jim Harrison has been honored for his writing of all genres.  His most recent books of poetry are In Search of Small Gods (2009), Saving Daylight (2006), Livingston Suite (2005), and The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems (1998).  He has won three National Academy of Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  He lives in Arizona and Montana.

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