Bedtime on the Farm


two brothers-

one with a normal reluctance for bedtime-

one who drags feet slowly

over the bare wooden floors

after the usual bedtime flap

of changing, washing, brushing

beds wait

both are cold

with warm heavy covers

the younger brother jumps

gratefully under the clean sheets

waits for his bed to warm

dreams of home runs and horses

the older approaches his twin

bed cautiously

lifts back the covers

there it is

the chicken

every night it waits

for him

scratches his clean sheets

squawks a warning

that chicken is a nightmare

that’s real

every night the younger brother

runs to tell their parents

Robert sees the chicken again.

every night that stubborn white chicken

flaps his wings and scratches

scaly feet only Robert sees

every night his parents say

Robert there is no chicken.

Look, I ran my hand over

the whole bed.  I felt no chicken.

I see no chicken.

every night with the bravery

of an advancing army

Robert crawls into bed

that nightmare chicken

walks up and down his body

clucks in his petrified ear

ruffles its white feathers one last time

trails a beak over his scaly feet

both clean and ready for bed

the boy and chicken sleep

I wonder if later

when Robert is older

if gratefulness replaces fear

a chicken is warm

on a cold winter night

and a wing flap breeze

in summer

Janice Eskridge © 2014


Helen Shoemaker and I have been leading poetry workshops at a local Masonic Home.  One resident told this story of his brother and the chicken.  But he didn’t want to write it down.  When I got home, I couldn’t let it go.  So I wrote it with poetic liberties but the brother really did see a chicken in bed every night.  Then at the Christmas tree farm, we were greeted by two chickens, Henny and Penny, I couldn’t resist a photograph of the charming duo.  then it hit me that I had the chickens I needed to post this.   Admittedly there are two.  But these two can’t be separated for even a minute so I left them pared, something like the brother and his chicken.

About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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