The Hen Swallows a Worm or Slug

By A. V. Christie
We scratch at the backyard together
through leaf mould, worm casings she kicks off
in a fan behind her. I use a stick
to dig, to find for her what she’s shown me
near the roots, at the edge of a step—sticky
slug on the underside of a hosta’s leaf.
How complicated she is and how resigned.
Between her beak and my outstretched hand,
the worm’s writhing. Then the long slick going
down. It fills the throat, like all that’s swallowed.
        Her head chucks it back,
        for the worm again dark.
        The hen’s pupil dilates.
        She wends and follows.

Her queries, sighs, low gurgles, the hastening
click of her nails on pavement then hungry
again into the grass. Grubs are larger
than pale yellow larvae I prize from inside
chestnuts. These mucousy blind wanderers
she eats right from my palm. Nevertheless I am
repulsed by my husband’s embrace. I turn
now from his thick belly, breasts, his interests.
A body I had clambered over, loved.
I scrabble, struggle. I cover myself.
        Another sticky truth dug up
        that I must re-bury—
        sorry on hands and knees,
        hungry and wary.

Source: Poetry (October 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2009
 A. V. Christie


A.V. Christie is the author of Nine Skies (University of Illinois Press, 1997), which won the National Poetry Series, and The Housing (Ashland Poetry Press, 2004), winner of the McGovern Prize.

Continue reading this biography

Poems by A. V. Christie

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.