Thirteen Ways to Count Your Chickens by Asha Rajan
Five hens scurry around the yard,
scratching and preening,
dust baths and dust ups.
I gather the eggs
Starkly white, mottled brown,
or freckled like a young child’s nose.
The hen watches me steal her labour.
I herd my children under my arm,
A mother hen,
even to these two grown men.
When the rooster died,
one of the hens began to crow.
Will I crow if my husband dies?
My first roast hen was a disaster;
too many spices, not enough crisp glistening skin.
You can take the Indian out of the girl,
but the tandoori chicken remains.
My insecurities have come home
to roost like proverbial hens.
They sit puffed and accusatorial on the fence.
The only good thing about the cold
is huddling under the quilt.
I roll myself in the downy feathers,
imagine myself a hen
fussing in her nest.
Hens can fly, you know.
skirts hiked up, wings flapping.
They’re much less graceful than bumble bees.
Male birds denote human genitalia,
but hens are not vaginas.
My sister taught me to whistle
when I was ten.
You know what they say,
About whistling women and crowing hens.
Once, my mother and I
watched my aunt,
mad as a wet hen,
chase my uncle,
a sickle held high in her hand,
threats of death on her tongue.
I bought chocolates for the children.
“You look after them,” they said,
Leaving a fox in charge of the hen house.
“What’s a Hindu?” he asked,
but I heard “hen do”.
“Lay eggs,” I said.
We were both confused.