Happy birthday Eugene McCarthy

Plymouth

If any of you are secret poets, the best way to break into print is to run for the presidency.  Eugene J. McCarthy

Eugene Joseph McCarthy was a poet who had a political career. Congressman from Minnesota, he sought the presidential nomination five times.

He is not to be confused with Senator Joseph McCarthy who ruined many an artistic career as Senator from Wisconsin, chair of the committee on unamerican activities, promulgator of the infamous Hollwood blacklist and “reds under the beds” attitude to Communism, Socialism, Trade Unionism and things Russian.

Here is a poem about the prettiest of hens.  I seem to have tapped a rich vein of thematic poetry of late.  Fowl poetry.

The Death of the Old Plymouth Rock Hen; by Eugene J. McCarthy

It was tragic when her time came
After a lifetime of laying brown eggs
Among the white of leghorns.
Now, unattractive to the rooster,
Laying no more eggs,
Faking it on other hens’ nests,
Caught in the act,
Taken to the woodpile
In the winter of execution.

A quick stroke of the axe,
One first and last upward cast
Of eyes that in life
Had looked only down,
Scanning the ground for seeds and worms
And for the shadow of the hawk.
Now those eyes are covered
By yellow lids,
Closing from the bottom up.

Decapitated, she did not act
Like a chicken with its head cut off.
No pirouettes, no somersaults,
No last indignity.
Like an English queen, she died.
On wings that had never known flight.
She flew, straight into the woodpile,
And there beat out slow death
While her curdled voice ran out in blood.

A scalding and a plucking of no purpose.
No goose feathers for a comforter.
No duck’s down for a pillow.
No quill for a pen.
In the opened body, no entrail message for the haruspex.
Not one egg of promise in the oviduct.
In the gray gizzard, no diamond or emerald,
But only half-ground corn,
Sure evidence of unprofitability.
The breast and legs,
The wings and thighs,
The strong heart,
The pope’s nose,
Fit only for chicken soup and stew.
And then in March, near winter’s end,
When bloodied and feathered wood is used,
The odor of burnt offerings
Above the kitchen stove.

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Happy Birthday Gary Whitehead

Chickens

These hens are mostly Blackrocks, a first generation cross between Plymouth Rock Barred and Rhode Island Reds, so they half come from the same state as Gary Whitehead.  When you spend time with chickens you can see what a good poet Whitehead is.  He captures them well.

 

A Glossary of Chickens; by Gary Whitehead

There should be a word for the way
they look with just one eye, neck bent,
for beetle or worm or strewn grain.
“Gleaning,” maybe, between “gizzard”
and “grit.” And for the way they run
toward someone they trust, their skirts
hiked, their plump bodies wobbling:
“bobbling,” let’s call it, inserted
after “blowout” and before “bloom.”
There should be terms, too, for things
they do not do—like urinate or chew—
but perhaps there already are.
I’d want a word for the way they drink,
head thrown back, throat wriggling,
like an old woman swallowing
a pill; a word beginning with “S,”
coming after “sex feather” and before “shank.”
And one for the sweetness of hens
but not roosters. We think
that by naming we can understand,
as if the tongue were more than muscle.

Bucket list #6

Dustbin

The latest installment in my bucket list thread is this rakish looking model, a large size plastic bucket with a weather proof lid complete with locking handles.  I need it for the chickens.  Well, really they are hens, laying hens.

I wanted my own fresh eggs, so I bought a henhouse and enclosed a chicken run.  It is equipped with suspended containers for water and feed.  The feed needs to be replenished regularly and it comes in very large 25 kilo bags.  The feed bag goes in the bucket, and it stays dry in all weather.  Each morning I refill the feeder from the bucket.

The weather proof locking handles double up to keep out varmints.  We don’t have to worry about raccoons or bears in Ireland but never underestimate the intelligence of a fox, a stoat, a rat a mouse or a crow.

The hens are working out well.  They are mostly Blackrocks, which is a first generation cross between Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rock Barred.  A couple of them are slimmer and have white feathers at the neck.  They are White Star crosses, which are Rhode Island Reds crossed with a Light Sussex.  I figure William Carlos Williams had either Light Sussex or possibly Leghorns, but he is never so specific is he?

Currently we get 5 to 6 eggs a day from 6 hens.  That will tail off come winter, but a light I installed in the coop should prevent a complete drop off.

Hens are great for reducing your garbage load as they eat all your food scraps.  They then produce copious amounts of good manure which goes to the vegetable garden, to produce more food.  Should they stop laying for any reason there is always a recipe for coq au vin…….

 

The Red Wheelbarrow; by William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.