Animals can teach you
about violence. I say this
because of the chickens.
They don’t know they are descended
from carnivorous giants, gastornis
in the north, phorusrhacidae to the south,
all mammal killers. They have no idea;
once apex predators of the Cenozoic,
they represent the newest branch
of a dynasty that ruled the earth
for over 160 million years.
They don’t know about the dinosaurs,
and it is a damn good thing, too.
Have you ever seen a chicken kill a mouse?
They will if they can catch one
in the coop, and more cruelly than cats.
Often you only find pieces,
but if the mouse is whole it is ripped open,
as though the furry body is a duffel bag
full of wet red cloth
the birds have hastily unpacked—
left, distracted, halfway through.
They will eat each other, too,
if one hen is already bleeding.
Mostly they don’t kill her, just pull out
some feathers and peck at the wound.
You don’t put chicks in with adults
until they’re big or fast enough,
unless they were laid and hatched
by one of the flock. We’ve bred them stupid,
which I suppose is not a bad thing—
they will never know
where they came from,
what wingspan and glories were stolen
by evolution and an upright ape.
Theodosia Henney is a Pushcart Prize-nominated queer whose poems and flash prose have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen publications, including RHINO, Grey Sparrow Journal, Fifth Wednesday, Vestal Review, Ozone Park, and Dirtcakes. She recently returned from several months of living out of a backpack, and is profoundly excited at the prospect of having shelves again.