Melissa Ginsburg


 the thief            the pockets
 the unfound      the looking
 the seen            and unseen
 the bent             the fluent
 the misplaced   the measured 
 the wreathed    the mirrored
 the buried         and planted 
 the vining          the drying 
 the hung            in the shed 
 the tethered      the strung
 the thinning      and keening 
 the stripped bare of feathers 
 the breast to     the shell
 the fiercely        guarded 
 the hissing        on the nest
 the stolen          forgotten


It is still night

 the cockerel   punctures
 warm dark with   threat-
 light.        calls day down 
 in a steady     curse until
 the world     thickens his
 garbled throat.   strangle
 call.             remembered
 or imagined         days of
 harm.            dawn smell
 of dusty wool            not
 hatched            but born.
 not                 floored but 
 thatched       with alarm. 
 shed down.             chips 
 of pine         and warning 
 ash.          crowing in the 
 dark to stitch         hexed 
 light               to morning. 

From the Author: Broody hens tear out their breast feathers in order to press their eggs directly to their skin for warmth. They eschew food and water and can make themselves ill, can even die of thirst while guarding the nest. Roosters both protect and brutalize the hens in their flock, and crow at any time of the day or night. To be near chickens is to witness patterns of ancient violence, their instincts honed by continual mortal danger and the drive to reproduce before they die. 

Melissa Ginsburg’s latest poetry collection, Doll Apollo, will be published in 2022 by LSU Press. She is the author of the novels The House Uptown and Sunset City, the poetry collection Dear Weather Ghost, and the poetry chapbooks Arbor, Double Blind, and the forthcoming Apollo. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Guernica, Kenyon Review, Fence, Southwest Review, and other magazines. Originally from Houston, Melissa teaches at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where she lives with two dogs, eleven chickens, and the writer Chris Offutt.