The coo-cackle becomes a roar
As I enter the chicken house
And feel my way through the darkness
With my bare feet
The barn kept purposefully dark
Like father keeps my bedroom, even in daytime
Especially in daytime

In the chicken house
The pre-dawn light weakly assembles
Through cracks in the walls
And the dilapidated aluminum roof
Affords me vague notions of shape and depth

I brace myself ahead of the pain
But still wince
As quills of loose feathers stab at my feet
Hard corn bites at my heels
And sharp daggers of stench stab at my nose
I press on, searching
The chickens part for me, a sea of dirty feathers
As I wait for at least one
That doesn’t

Soon, a rubbery, yielding, downy softness
Meets my spread toes
As my eyes adjust, I see
A cautious circumference
Maintained by other curious chickens
Around its latest, seed-choked dead

Above the carcass, barely perceptible in the early dawn
Flies are desperately trying to lace-up the air
As if trying to contain and keep forever
This fresh burst of emanating death

I stoop and grab the dead bird
By its ropey neck
And with my tongue firmly anchored
To the side of my mouth
I grip it tighter—and launch it

The bird flies up from my pin-wheeled arm
Up, up, up
The entire coop, with ratchet-like precision
Stares up, with celestial awe, toward the floating, ascending bird
And as before, the brood issues in perfect concord
As the dead bird rises toward the rafters
And slows, stops, and hangs there for a moment

At the very apex of its ascent
The inert wings seem about to shoulder out of death’s grip
Stretch out on their own
And achieve flight

The chickens are silent as they watch and wait
With fear, dread, or perhaps some with glee
As the form falls again

For me, each delicious moment of silence
During this descent
Is what my soul gulps up greedily
This is the opulent nothingness I would later draw from
When father is again over me
And I yearn for similar such oblivion

The chickens hop back
Enlarging the circle, me at its center
The pistil of some gruesome twilight flower
As the dead bird hits the ground with a muffled boom
A quiet whistle is the first to fill the silence
The mechanical sigh of its deflated lungs

The cackling of the chickens returns with a vengeance
As I trace my way back outside, toward the house
Their mocking laughter follows me
It sneaks up my calves, my thighs
And inches toward my abdomen
(Where I keep hidden that stolen silence)
Advancing with the sickly twitch
Of unwanted conception

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