Poem for a Chook
Eating from the Dictionary
by Les Murray
Plucked chook we called Poultry, or Fowl,
a meat rare in our kitchens, crepe-skinned
for festivity or medicine.
As Chooks alive, they were placid
donors of eggs and mild music.
Perches and dark gave them sleep.
Then came the false immigration
of millions crying in tin hell-ships
warmed all night by shit-haloed bulbs,
the coarsest species, re-named Chicken,
were fresh meat for mouths too long corned.
Valleys south of ours deigned to farm them.
When our few silver-pencilled Wyandottes
went down with a mystery plague,
their heads trailing back on their wings
no vet could diagnose them.
Chickens don’t live long enough
to get sick, laughed battery keepers.
Much later, when all our birds were dead
a boy of eleven who kept
name breeds said they had suffered
spinal worm. And was there a cure?
Sure. Garlic in their drinking water.
He named a small ration per year.
His parents vouched for him. No need.
We’d seen his small flock, and the trust
that tottered round him on zinc feet.
From ‘Waiting for the Past’ by Les Murray
( Black Inc.)
The Monthly Magazine
australian slang words