Digging the hen’s grave

on a day when I
can, though barely,
my own mortality
implicated, excavated,

spading through
hardpan, carving
space for the body
she still inhabits,

 tail down, but head
up. Eyes bright;
a shimmer
of hackle feathers

she will not molt.
Secretly, I invoke fox,
bobcat, hawk: You may
come now; she can

no longer run.
(The tumors advance.)
Trade your brief terror
for her slow dying.

Let your violence
be immaculate; leave
few feathers, less blood.
I have this affection.

I work this poem
through many days.
Restraint is called
for:  the telling

detail; the precise
intimation. My old hen
makes better use of
my long melancholy,

her pre-postmortem.
While I eulogize,
she improves, forages,
bathes languidly in

sun and dirt,
expresses an affection
for watermelon and sweet
corn, milk flying from

kernels with every
appreciative peck. I
scratch the small spot
on my ossified skull

where mystery yet abides,
where certainty recedes.
A glad confusion blossoms,
expands;  it might

be backfilled with
optimism were it not
for the shovel held
in abeyance.

Somewhere, some
time, some other
spade rests, my
grave dug and waiting,

as I quietly, unpredictably,
unbecome. Yet here
we are, my hen and I,
still alive in the late season

of sweet corn, of watermelon.
I scratch that soft spot,
feel the hint of a fontanel.
Shuck the ear; slice the wedge.



  1. Ah, sis. I can smell their lovely haven when I read this. You are such an incredible caregiver, and the connection is clear; likely even stronger for dear Tess.
    Your writing is so good. So good.
    Miss you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sis! They may all still be around when you next visit; my prognostication has proven less than reliable. 🙂 Miss you, too.


  2. Truly touching on multiple levels. Hoping she continues to surprise you a good while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jazz. She very well may!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is brilliant, Cate. So deep. So many perspectives. So many emotions touched. May she pass with dignity. -Russ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Russ! Right now, “passing” seems far from her little chicken brain, and she’s in charge. 🙂 That could change tomorrow; I reliably know less than I thought I did.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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