Tag Archiv: poems

People and Chickens

Christmas 14 Jan 15 226

 

Some people that I love are suffering. I find myself thinking about Huntington’s disease, dementia, and places where we become less than we were. Sometimes we are children growing in the wrong direction. Away from promise and potential into private worlds where possibilities shrink like the future, fall through our fingers like sand, and torn from us with insistent hands are scattered like chaff in the wind forever.

I like to watch chickens. In all their feather finery, they are a curious and going concern until they’re not. One day they run on three toed feet, an apple slice in their beak trying to dodge the flock of chickens in hot pursuit, one day they settle determined on a pile of eggs insisting that the other girls find somewhere else to lay, one day they dart past you out the door . . . and another day, they’re gone. Nothing but a pile of feathers waiting to be buried.

Chickens’ heads bob around at the end of their necks a lot like a person with muscle spasms. All of them do it and none of them care. If anything, they’re proud of it. Now and then it strikes me that chickens essentially invented break dancing (from the shoulders up). Yesterday I found myself stalled, watching chickens again. I’d dumped some scraps in the outside run to try and tempt them out into the fresh air and sunshine. A bold chicken and two flightier birds came curious about the scraps but not quite sure. In and out an inch, and in and out an inch, and in and out three inches then back to the end of the line. Chicken two gave a smaller try then ran to the end of the line and so on. Ten minutes I stood amused although they weren’t doing anything they don’t do every day. Nervous chickens (and they are all nervous) change their minds even more than nervous people.

I don’t know how watching them helped me. I remembered a sick chicken who no longer bobbed her head at all but still knew she was a chicken. The other chickens knew she was a chicken too.

I’m not sure what separates us from the chickens is as big a space as we’d like to think. Or maybe we do know. A microscopic hair’s breadth separates us, people from chickens, well people from sick people, and that’s what hurts. Watching people suffer who were us in another life, three or four seconds ago.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” wrote poet Dylan Thomas. But not everybody is handed the ability to rage toward nights gentle or otherwise. In a different poem, Thomas writes, “Though they go mad, they shall be sane,¬†Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”

Death shall have no dominion. I think the chickens know this.

The Other Deepest Fear

Mary Agnes, By Robert Henri, 1924

Mary Agnes, By Robert Henri, 1924

I heard the title of the poem, “Our Deepest Fear,” before I actually read it. I imagined a kind of kinship with the author. Wondered what the answer was. When I finally read it, I felt confused.

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure . . .”

The people reciting the poem in movies are always so courageous and convincing that despite my inability to get it, I feel happy for them. But my deepest fear? Well, it ain’t that. For fun on a sleepless night, I managed to corral mine under one of two umbrellas. First, that I am ultimately unlovable, and second, that I will fail to love well those that mean the most to me. (I know, my deepest fears would make a lousy movie if the poem had gone my way.)

I try to be a tidy liver – as in a person who lives tidily, not the organ meat you fry with onions – but sometimes my fears get messy. This goes for deep ones and spiders and I swear there’s a pattern. Except I haven’t deciphered it, so I don’t predict the deep fear rising soon enough to quarantine myself from the outside world until it passes. Once it arrives, it’s too late. I’m a blithering idiot just wanting something to make it better. Even worse, I talk to people. Or try to.

When the fear submarines decide to go down again, they smile and pretend to deep six themselves. I wave goodbye because I am so done with them, but I mostly know that part is pretending. Past experience is that they don’t have the decency to die, they just bubble out of sight so they can take a break down there where it’s murky. ¬†Sometimes they hover just out of hearing but I can tell by the water they haven’t gone far. Other times they disappear to the ocean floor for so long, I start to believe they’re gone. Either way, there’s afterwards.

A submarine came up for air recently. This particular one especially compels me to pour out my soul as nakedly as possible. With sub in sight, I am certain this is the only solution. Once the sub dives down again, I am left cursing my lack of clothing, wondering what possessed me and swearing all kinds of promises to myself to never do that again.

Might I say, despite the possible agitation caused to those convinced that I just don’t get that part of Ms. Williamson’s poem, how lovely it would be, if my deepest fear was that I was powerful beyond measure.

Also I am looking for the button. The one you can push to have recent words erased from other people’s heads, replaced instead with the notion that I am soooo together now.