By | 1 May 2017

My cousin the farmer is laden with death
he tells me each morning he checks the chickens
while I sleep. The weaklings need killing,
so he walks amongst them, dawn-spectre,
and takes their lives. It has to be done
he tells me. While I sleep, the long sheds
hot as summer’s guts, are home to lone
acts of kindness. Among ten thousand
fluffed bodies, his eyes hawk upon
the others, the strange-winged, hobbling,
he tells me: I get a little rope, noose
it round their necks and hang them
from the ceiling. He laughs at my belief.
I’m kidding. I just snap their necks,
like this—his huge hands twist the air
so sharp I’m surprised it doesn’t crack.
Ravens haunt the nearby treetops
and foxes stalk the feathered earth
outside the sheds the survivors yet
live, for now. My cousin tells me
Cain and Abel were the first
to farm, to keep and raise animals
as sacrifice. A lamb for God. A brother
for the devil, who taught a man how
a stone could crack a skull, but not
why. When the devil brought news
of her son’s downfall, Eve said, “Woe
to you. What is murder?” “He eats not.
He drinks not. He moves not,” said he
in reply. Many months I have lain
as if felled by a fallen angel
unable to move I tell my cousin
Maybe I lose half my days
in penance, maybe I die a little
every night, for this. The absence
of a brother. He walks away
from belief. He will sleep tonight
in the hot house, lying in the reek
of their living. He will be covered
in a cloak of wings, hear the song
of too-many hearts, and his hands
will be stone-less, still, all of them
waiting for the crack of dawn.

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