PoetryWinter2018

Teaching My Students to Kill Chickens – Ben Swimm

The first time my students kill
a chicken they are not good at it.
I show them how to still

the wings in their hands, to will
the flipped bird into a cone and slit
its throat. But the first time my students kill

a chicken they move with doubt instead of skill.
Their bodies shake, suddenly unfit
for this. I try to show them how to be still.

I try to show them how to be gentle until
they make the cut, to hold on even as the blood drips.
The first time my students kill

a chicken, I want them to fill
a church with candles and worship.
They don’t know how to still

pray to that church (this is the skill)
and be the one that burns it
down. The hundredth time I kill
a chicken, I don’t know how to do this still.

 


 

Author Bio: Ben Swimm is a second-year MFA candidate at Oregon State University, where he serves as poetry editor for the program’s literary magazine, 45th Parallel. He co-owns and operates a small vegetable farm in Alaska, and has spent much of the last 10 years working on educational farms. His poems have recently appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewSalamander, and Camas.

The author: zlis@iastate.edu