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BQ Winning Entries

 

Thirteen Ways to Count Your Chickens    by    Asha Rajan

I

Five hens scurry around the yard,

scratching and preening,

dust baths and dust ups.

 

II

I gather the eggs

one…two…three…four.

Starkly white, mottled brown,

or freckled like a young child’s nose.

The hen watches me steal her labour.

 

III

I herd my children under my arm,

A mother hen,

even to these two grown men.

 

IV

When the rooster died,

one of the hens began to crow.

Will I crow if my husband dies?

 

V

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.

 

VI

My insecurities have come home

to roost like proverbial hens.

They sit puffed and accusatorial on the fence.

 

VII

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.

 

VIII

Hens can fly, you know.

Short distances,

skirts hiked up, wings flapping.

They’re much less graceful than bumble bees.

 

IX

Male birds denote human genitalia,

but hens are not vaginas.

 

X

My sister taught me to whistle

when I was ten.

You know what they say,

About whistling women and crowing hens.

 

XI

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.

 

XII

I bought chocolates for the children.

“You look after them,” they said,

Leaving a fox in charge of the hen house.

 

XIII

“What’s a Hindu?” he asked,

but I heard “hen do”.

“Lay eggs,” I said.

We were both confused.

 

 

The Visit    by   Geraldine Day

 

He is much slower now.

One fast year and his shirt

buttons resist the fumble of fingers

speech slurs in the corner of his mouth.

Appointments, tablets, therapy

but his feet still take their own path.

 

She takes the stairs less and less

her hip backstitching the pain to her spine

stacks her day on the bottom tread.

Patterns of pressure curdle in her voice

refuses to imagine a lonely bed.

 

I shower when instructed, eat breakfast alone

welcome the recycled rattle of milk bottles

the thwack of the daily letter-drop.  Outside

a pastel sun dithers behind a skin of cloud

searches for an escape route.

 

Next door’s cat jumps the fence, ignores me,

inspects daises, pansies, a fallen leaf

settles under a rhododendron bush

spies on the dip and glide of butterflies.

 

Four weeks later, home, jet-lagged, a silent fridge

I rummage for a midnight meal, a can opener

baked beans and Ryvita, hot tea and shelf milk.

No friendly clink of a milkman’s visit

but the bathroom’s free.

 

 

Updated  21 January 2021