Elegy for Geoffrey Greg Brown, a Fine Hen

When the first chicken you ever loved
Dies of unknown causes
While you are out of town,
And your practical partner
Tells you he has tossed her
In the dumpster, do not judge him.
Pull her out when you return,
When time permits a burial.
Examine her brown plumage,
Recollect the story of her mystery,
How she joined this flock
From who knows where.
Marvel at the joy of unknown origin,
Clandestine breeds.
Remember how she squatted,
Stomped her feet for you
To stroke her velvet back?
Imagine a year of her brown eggs
Bloomed now in your musculature.
Notice in her current limpness
She was more than body—
Clever, friendly, generous bird
Full of electricity and hope.
How she would chase you
Carrying the compost bowl!
Remember her gentle beak
Stealing seed from your palm,
The way you wished the others
Would learn her etiquette?
She is lighter, smaller now.
Her head lolls side to side
On the walk to the shed,
Her eyes two shriveled sockets.
Where is the animal you loved?
You dig where water has run off
The roof of an old outbuilding
And made the ground soft.
Your shovel finds its way with ease.
Sing simple syllables over her,
Curb the urge to wish
Her constant ghostly presence.
Even chickens must move on.
Spread her perfect wing.
Try to take her feathers
With bare fingers.
When that fails, find scissors
In the kitchen.
Pluck two from the neck,
Cut two from the left wing
To share with your youngest son,
Who, like you, knows the power
Of a good name and called her Geoffrey
After you named her Greg Brown.
She never knew her names,
But Brown and Neruda
Were wrong about chickens.
Sit her up in her new nest.
Gather brown upon brown.
Set a log on end.
Promise to carve her name.

with love and thanks to singer/songwriter,
Greg Brown, for the story after this song.

3 Responses to “Elegy for Geoffrey Greg Brown, a Fine Hen”

  1. Maz says:

    What a lovely . hauntingly life mirroring , story… well done
    See my words at:


  2. eduardo says:

    A haunting elegy, this. So much emotion, grieving and sorrow, nestled beneath your dry understatement. An outpouring of grief, I’m guessing.
    Oy, those closing four lines. The emptiness of the final line. (That is, the emptiness you musta felt—leaving this closure un-closed.)
    This one stings and lingers.

    • wordweed says:

      Thanks, Eduardo. Understatement and unclosed closure. As always, you have a keen eye for what I am saying and not saying.

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