The transportation of Hens

ten at a time we carried them
by their legs
to cages on the truck

where they grew silent
in the darkness
of an early market

many hens
during the collection

as we reached for them
they trampled each other to death
I was one of the collectors
in the morning their deaths
were discovered
and we were called upon

to load them
first in nylon sacks
and then onto a tractor cart

we drove them to a trench
not far from the main road
the transportation of hens

we were told was a normal
part of our work
setting fire to the bags was not

This poem first appeared in Hayotzer in 1987. It was reprinted in the collection “Pointed Sentences” (BlazeVOX, 2012).

Bill Yarrow is professor of English at Joliet Junior College. His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Poetry International, DIAGRAM, The Del Sol Review and RHINO.