Like hearts marked out but not yet colored in,
Each of her feathers has a black edge,
as if an India-ink mantilla stretched
from uncleaved neck to her fantail. The pen,
homemade, spilled some darkness now and then.
She doesn’t lack for suitors. Poor rooster,
who pours his own loud heart out to her,
surely his begging does no more than force
her to peck out a crooked tattoo in the dirt
of the pen. Is she stumped, sad, anorexic?
It’s perfectly clear she doesn’t lay eggs.
Can it be she’s simply in love with herself?
Her eye obsidian, eye of the world,
at night she watches the stars drop from shelf
to shelf, to minor études she unfurls
in her head. By day she hunts and re-pecks
the pinprick holes of her intricate sketch.
If she’s done by dusk the first stars can rise.
Cynthia Zarin, “The Astronomical Hen” from The Watercourse. Copyright © 2002 by Cynthia Zarin. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: The Watercourse
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)