15 December 2020

Close up of a chicken's foot protruding from a transport cage
Photo by Twyla Francois from her story of Jane – one tiny chicken foot. . . .

Most Chickens Never Get To Cross A Road

For the inestimable VALERIE
By R. David Drucker, October 16, 2020

When eighteen rubber tires meet the road,

a hum like a mighty ocean liner’s

reverberates off the distant hilltops

and an invisible bow wave washes

unsuspecting creatures out of the way

sparing them the fate of being flattened

unless, like cattle or men, they’re too large

and crunch against an overheated grill

already crocheted with a million bugs

constantly flung through long despairing nights

on some rock pock-marked common carrier.

 

In winter semi exhaust turns to frost

as it hits the endless asphalt ribbon

constructed when the weather was warmer

and headstrong roosters ruled chicks from the roost

many miles from this feather littered road

then the only way to the hatchery

and the only road leading out of it

for semi’s fully loaded sad burdens

still living except for a few dead ones

whose outrage and shock already killed them.

 

I, a spacey, prepubescent farm boy,

didn’t have to deal with any of this.

 

Content with hastily written essays

extolling the virtues of animal

husbandry, my heady sense of freedom,

responsibility for fostering

the welfare of a dozen or so chicks,

gave me hope I’d garner a Blue Ribbon

that would make my family proud of me

and the envy of other moms and dads

lacking the good sense to be my parents.

Nothing prepared me for semis rushing

down a feather lined Minnesota road

hatchery to factory slaughterhouse

nor suspect their rubber that met that road

would dispatch a million victims or more

monthly from Minnesota to market

so plentiful they drove their prices down

while my Rhode Island Red winning rooster

continued to wear his ribbon proudly.

 

The hum of hen laden semis grows dim

as another beautiful morning dawns.


Postscript to United Poultry Concerns

Thank you very much for your interest in "Most Chickens . . .". The poem was written on the basis of stories my late wife Mary used to tell me when she worked for a plastic netting company in the 1980s and 90s. One aspect of the job was to visit places where specialized netting manufactured by the firm she represented was used - blueberry farms that used "blueberry netting," citrus groves that used "orange netting," even a plant in Mancos, Colorado that bound bundles of twigs and branches together with netting.

All of these visits were pretty innocuous; however, the visits she always dreaded were those to poultry farms because of the conditions under which the chickens and/or turkeys were kept. The image of the access road lined with poultry feathers looking like snow banks was one she could never get over and I have never forgotten even though the last such visit she made was almost three decades ago.

BTW, Mary's pet as a preadolescent was Nicky Hokey, a chicken she rescued from her step father who had broken the chicken's leg in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him for dinner. She had him as a pet for a couple of years until one day she came home from the movies. Nicky Hokey was gone, and dinner that night was chicken. Despite her love for that bird and her suspicions about that dinner, she remained an omnivore all her life.
R. David Drucker, October 24, 2020