Stooping through the little door
of her chicken coop, the one
with the gun nailed above the sill,
we entered the gloom
of cluck and murmur.
Earlier she’d told me out by the clothesline
—white sleeves slapping above my head—
Anne, you’ll need to learn to work hard
because those Russians are going to take our land
but here we were in a dusky,
comforting country where time slowed
then seemed to almost stop
like all those years of the chair placed
beside her husband’s bed. Sometimes
when he was having a bad time of it
she’d let me sit at the top of the stairs
and listen as she played the mandolin for hours.
Strange now to realize he’d been back from the war
for forty years and yet his lungs
—those ravaged battle grounds—
would still outlast her playing by a decade.
But for that moment, there we were
in the murky hen house
and I still had no idea what would happen next
after she selected one hen
and carried it under her arm to the waiting yard.