The Woman With The Hen On Her Shoulder

By Marisa Crane

Who are you? Have you always had chickens? Ever since you were a little girl? I like to imagine a younger you sitting in the coop with your chickens, giving each one a tiny hug. Oh, not all of them like hugs? That makes sense—I’m not a huge fan of hugs either. They fill my head up with exhaust, cause me to clutch onto the nearest wall so I don’t fall off the planet. That amused face you just made reminded me of my mother. Yeah, she’s still alive. She hugs me whenever I see her.

Can I pet your hen? I like her. I like you. She’s beautiful, and you’re beautifully hers. Her feathers are quite soft, softer than I expected, although I can’t necessarily say what I was expecting. Now I’m imagining her feathers stuffed inside a pillow. Now I never want to sleep on another pillow.

You laugh, but I mean it.

I want to tell you about the chickens that used to live next door, how they grounded me in the uncertain night. I want to tell you how the German Shepherd puppy would chase them around the yard, their wings flapping like they still hosted the memory of flight.

IMG_0026Do chickens dream? No, put your phone away. I don’t want to know what Google thinks; I want to know what you think. Have you witnessed your hen—I’m sorry, I should have asked her name earlier—oh, she looks just like a Frangelica!—kicking or flapping in her sleep? Does she squawk? Scream? Are chickens capable of screaming? Perhaps she dreams of running around like a human with her head cut off. That’d be something, wouldn’t it?

Ah! She cackles in her sleep, you say? The same cackle she makes after laying eggs? Brilliant. Every time she falls asleep is another celebration of motherhood, it seems.

Forgive me if this comes across as insensitive, but do you think she dreams of you? Don’t laugh, I bet she does. I bet she sees you cradling her chicks and smiling that gentle smile you gave me when I stopped you on the street. You didn’t have to stop, you know. You could have kept on walking and walking and walking until you reached a tear in the space-time continuum. You could have climbed through it and discovered Frangelica’s topsy turvy dream world, full of scrambling baby chicks with bad hair days.

Frangelica sits so nicely on your shoulder. She looks happy and self-assured. This is how I hope to always remember her, though I must confess, I keep worrying that an egg is going to drop out of her at any second and shatter against the sidewalk. I know that’s not actually how it works, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not worried anyway.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m crouched and ready to dive to the concrete and catch the egg before it breaks. I want to give it a proper chance at life. I want to hear Frangelica’s glorious cackle. I want to know that there is more to motherhood than unwanted hugs.

Marisa Crane is a lesbian fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, X-R-A-Y Magazine, Cotton Xenomorph, Maudlin House, Occulum, Pithead Chapel, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. She currently lives in San Diego with her wife. You can find her on Twitter @marisabcrane.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Alcohol Ink and Watercolor, with Digital Finish)

Previous Next