Good Night, Ladies // Jennifer Chang

The hens won’t do what I want them to:
They bristle, squat, grow petulant under
my reaching hand. But it’s time to go
home. The sun’s stretched to a streak

of rose flush along the fir-tops; the day’s
turned lilac cold. Not yet night, though
I feel the darkening in my arms, frail
tremor, the bird’s pin-boned, all fluff.

It’s too early, or I’m too clumsy to corral
the rest of the cluster from under the coop.
I track their hop and dawdle, lopsided
as drunks, and twice as stubborn. I reason

with corn feed and terror, point out
unseen fisher cats skulking beyond
the pen. One hen circles hen-pecked
trenches, burrowed seats of safety,

another wing-flaps haplessly, mad at
her grounding. They’re scared of me,
but I’m scared of what I can’t see,
maybe fisher cats, maybe the last suck

of breath that unmakes me, the shadows
I pretend to love. Who wants the door
to close, to be wrangled by strangers
then cooped up? We’re all chicken. Yes,

it’s written in the twilight sky, the poem
of our good night. I carry a warm hen
in my hands, brown feathers, brown feathers
softly unfeathering, and her nervous coo.

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