Sarah Day, Poet

Hens

I think I’ve been waiting for you all my life.
To glimpse you through the kitchen window
scratching between iris and daffodil,
disrupting roots, sprawling moll-like
in a patch of sun, wings spread flush
with the ground, a coquettish leg
in the air and rolling lascivious eye.
You’re disruptive of course –
annuals, seedlings go by the wayside,
Christmas lilies cordoned off,
brassicas like khaki interns on parade –
but what small price
for that vigorous rustling
as mulch scatters from under hedges,
to have you beady at my side
grabbing worms as I pull up buttercups;
or whetting your beaks on the path, this side
that side, like good chefs sharpening knives.
I love the way you pose like weathervanes
on the axe handle,
to watch as I wash dishes
how today’s menu, or tonic
is borage or bindweed or dock
that you will strip back
to a handful of cellulose spikes.
The way you share a laying box
when there is one for each of you
and midwife one another
through your confinements.
The way you lay eggs –
those warm white ellipses
on the straw.
Somehow for all the wreckage
the garden was never more alive.
You offer a remote conviviality
that I don’t presume upon
as I would, say, a dog or cat,
I’m afraid it’s species that I’m celebrating here,
not personality,
that atavistic sense of well-being you provoke
you unremarkably remarkable hens.
I’m grateful, watching you just now
splashing about in dust
for that reassurance you give,
of simple notions, like goodness.