Trish Reeves: Chicken Tavern

was where they went
after the oracles, pushing wide—
with extended wings—the twin doors,
harried after news from the sibyls
gathered at the cistern pump;
the chickens’ smooth, white feathers ruffled so
no one noticed the sharp smell of sawdust—
not of the barnyard, though oracular as well.
For these fellows, none of them
were headed to an enviable end. But

the tavern, looking nothing
like a poultry house, pig pen or
sheep shelter, resembled, if anything
from their experience, the butter dairy.
At least the butter dairy of their day
when inside walls were lined
in shelves of shallow pans.
Here, however, the tins contained
not mothers’ milk, open to currents
of cool air and darkness, but whiskey, bird
whiskey. And if you’ve never been drinking
with a chicken, you have no idea
how potent bird whiskey can be. It
knocks you down, sits you back up
and sends you, by mistake, not to the
piggery, as false prophets
would have it, but all the way back
to Ohio from whence you were shipped
to New York and the sisters of the cistern.
And now, in your original state and
knowing there will be no warning,
you live in constant need
of surety and the camaraderie
found only at the so-far-away-as-to-be
nonexistent Chicken Tavern.


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