Michael Portillo and the Little Red Hen by Deborah Alma

in Authors & Books/Poetry


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.

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