The wind howls in the dark
and up the hill she scatters,
the light grey feathers touched
with chestnut, specked by blood
and blown, blown now,
everywhere and nowhere.
The bobcat killed her here,
after taking her from the yard
while I sat in the basement 20
yards away, watching a movie.
Unhearing, unseeing, complacent.
the stealthy power, the lethal grace,
the flawless hunter’s intelligence that
mocked the fence and the daylight,
the safety I’d presumed.
My small hen Ellie, whose cheeks erupted
in feathery whispers
beneath a crimson comb,
who laid pale green eggs,
who charmed me with her sweet diffidence.
The bright eyes dimming,
the soft whistle of her voice receding,
the effortless beauty dismantling.
The signs I followed minutes
later, tumbling up the rocky deer path
twisting through scrub oak breathless
and desperate, chasing
her disappearing life.
A hundred yards; sixty seconds.
Three hundred beats of her good hen heart;
ninety of my own in the slower cadence of
human panic, hammering through thickening air
to the pile of familiar feathers:
All they spoke, in silence;
the organic force of their disposition.
Meet me in heaven, I say to her.
Meet me in heaven with the years of
hens I have loved for their glorious forms,
their quiet industry, their uncomplicated affection.
Find them in the growing flock I can no longer feed,
feathers tight and immaculate on their perfect bird bodies.
When my time comes, meet me in heaven.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to Ellie, Cate. I’ve only rarely experienced chills while reading something that touched me so deeply. This sure did!
That’s a lovely compliment. Thank you for reading!
[…] never thought much about chickens as pets, but Cate’s poem “Meet Me in Heaven” is heartbreaking and illuminates a relationship with these feathered […]
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Thanks for featuring this post on your wonderful blog, Michelle!
Oh. sad. And what a beautiful elegy for Ellie.
Thanks, Steph. She is missed.
You created beauty out of the ashes of loss and sadness. Thank you for that. I do not know what other words to offer your heart that cares so much for animals …
Thank you, Rafiki.
So sad, Cate. A tough time for chickens – a friend recently lost one of his hens, too.
Thanks, Bob. She is missed. My condolences to your friend; hens are good and beautiful companions.
So sad!!! I’m very sorry for your loss! I had a pet hen, and she used to come running to me when I called her name, she was adorable. Our beloved pets become part of our family, and they are so missed when they leave us! Don’t feel guilty because you could not protect her… you couldn’t have… it all happened too fast!
Thanks for your kind words. I got my first look at the bobcat yesterday morning; she had jumped my back fence and was in my yard, and my cat Spot was exchanging glances with her. (Believe me, I hustled him and his sister back inside in a hurry.) She has put me on notice that a new level of vigilance will be required to protect my own animals while still giving them some of the freedom they love.
I’m so sorry, Cate. It’s so hard to lose animal friends.
It is, indeed. Thank you.
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