(Note: regarding audio–this poem starts at 1:17 seconds)
Kindness in the World of Chickens
As if there was kindness in the world of chickens.
Prying these eyes open
and shoving the tears back in.
He suspects a reason for being born.
But hates what he suspects.
At least tell the chickens
there’s no help on the way.
The signs remind of the immense pleasure
in the ever-running error,
remind the chickens that they’ll someday fly
or that they flew before.
The torso mutinies.
The chickens blink.
Hell compromises to be here.
Just like everything else.
Review by John Johnson
There is kindness in this poem. For instance, it doesn’t explain itself, which is kindness in any poem. The poet knows we don’t need to know whose eyes are pried open (human, chicken, both), or by whom, or who is shoving those tears back in. It’s enough to know the task is impossible. Nothing can undo hurt once it’s been done. And even though there is “no help on the way,” no call for hope or faith, there is kindness in the “ever-running error” of history, of mutation and evolution, kindness and “immense pleasure” in knowing that flight (if not help) is coming, or that it’s already come and been forgotten. “The torso mutinies. / The chickens blink.” The body (chicken, human, politic) overthrows itself, and quickly, “like everything else,” like this poem overthrows its opening line. No longer ironic, it asks us to imagine, after all, kindness in the world of chickens.