Special: Hen Eggs by Stephen Page

Hen Eggs

by Stephen Page

 

 

I wake up late in the morning, ten o’clock,

to the shouts of children in the living

room. I feel like sleeping more, but stir and robe

 

myself to stumble to the kitchen to pour

my first cup of coffee. The smell is rich

as bramble, but before I can sip into

 

lucidity the screams of my three-year-old

grandchild and four of her friends headache me to

shower where I wash away last night’s dream.

 

I dress and backpack and ready to tramp

to the Wood to find the Myth, but my wife,

who is watching the kids, is called

 

by the capataz to come look at the cows,

so she asks me to babysit until she returns.

I never asked to be a grandfather, nor responsibly

 

a father, but here I am, married to a woman

I love, a widow, a mother whose daughter

has children: I am a grandfather by default.

 

We watch a Disney movie and sing and march

around the coffee table—I intervening when

their tags becomes shoves: I bore quickly.

 

My wife enters the back door and I bolt out

the front, not making three strides across the lawn

before she yells and asks that I start the asado

 

for her daughter and son-in-law who will arrive

in three hours. I glance at the mottled

trees at the edge of the Wood, realizing how easy

 

it would be to just say ‘no’, to go to my real work,

Myth finding, but I set my backpack down on a white

wooden bench and set fire to the kindling.

 

Four hours later, full of meats, wine,

and exhaustion from bending over a grill,

I drink a double espresso and ready myself to hike

 

alone, restart my day, discover truths, but

my oldest grandchild grasps my hand and pleads

“please, take me to pool, show me chickens,

 

walk me,” her lake eyes large as sky.

I walk with her, show her the covered pool,

explain to her that it is too late in the year

 

to swim, too cold; walk past the reddening

lawn oak, take her to the hen house, find a fresh

egg still warm for her to carry back to her mother.

 

 

 

2.

 

It is exceptionally cold this morning for autumn;

a tenuous fog clings to the frost.

I don corduroys, a wool jacket, a belt knife

 

and ready myself for adventure—Indian

fighting, puma killing; but today

my youngest grandchild clasps my hand.

 

I lift her and step outside the kitchen

door.   She is one and walks well already

but I have to carry her because the collies

 

frighten her: they are mountainous dragons

with fire-wet tongues and hot breath

and teeth like jagged sun-bleached rocks.

 

She is armored in full-body polar fleece

and peers through the visor with wood-green

eyes and sees that the collies lead us

 

through the mist guarding us from trees;

she smiles down at them from her throne

but will not allow me to set her upon

 

her booted feet as we head toward

the chickens, or the “kaw-kaws” as she has named

them as early as this morning’s breakfast.

 

There are no fresh eggs in the coop; her eyes

worry, and I assume a ranch-hand bandit

must have robbed them, but as I step out

 

of the gate I notice a possum print

in the mud.   The mist has lifted

and the sun burnt off most of the frost

 

so we journey around the yard, I showing

her how to smell the sharp-scented jacaranda

leaves, to touch and name the autumn

 

flowers, to discern the silhouette

of mockingbird from ratbird;

her weight, her weight, strengthening my arms.

 

Stephen Page is the author of A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.

 

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. I recently received an Official Commendation from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of five non-fiction books: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; and Your Original Personal Ad. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won forty-seven poetry awards, writing twelve poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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11 Responses to Special: Hen Eggs by Stephen Page

  1. Paul Beech says:

    A terrific poem, Stephen, and one that resonates with me strongly as I have four children (all grown-up now) and six grandchildren (ranging from 8 to 27). In fact my son, the youngest of my children, was only 4 when my first grandchild came along, a girl. So I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life bringing up children and minding grandchildren alongside pursuing a very demanding career in social housing, helping the homeless, etc. A case of art punctuated by life, you could say.

    On the subject of grandchild-minding, if you’re a crime fiction buff, as I very much am, I recommend you check out the late Robert Barnard’s short story ‘The New Slavery’. You’ll find it in his 2011 collection ‘Rogue’s Gallery.

    By the way, my two young grandsons (aged 8 and 11) look after half-a-dozen hens each, and I occasionally receive gifts of blue and brown eggs.

    My very best,

    Paul

  2. Barb Germiat says:

    Delightful. Imaginative use of nouns as verbs especially in the first few stanzas.

  3. The payoff is that last line!

  4. Ed hall says:

    Very enjoyable!

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