I once watched Michael Portillo on the TV
in an experiment in a decompression chamber,
and it somehow stuck with me-
how they closed all the doors
and as all the oxygen drained away
in just a few moments 8 minus 4 was 3.
So when my old red hen started to droop
and huddle in dark corners, crap stuck to her tail
I picked her up, and held her close to snap her neck,
but worried uncertain hands would leave her
with a head grotesquely skewed,
so I tried to chop off her head with an axe,
imagined a headless hen spraying blood,
spattering the deck. I thought then of Michael Portillo
and his lack of concern, so close to death.
I took a cardboard box, made her a nest;
she fluffed her feathers in the near dark,
settled to sleep. And one after another
I covered the box in bin liners tied tight,
set the box steady and level, put my ear
to plastic rustles and clucks of contentment.
And despite my dreams in the stifling dark,
I recommend this as a way to kill a chicken,
I’d recommend it still.