the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




WORK
BY JERRY HICKS

BALLISTIC IN A CHICKEN COOP

Life's been a little harsh and
I'm living in a Monrovia
wino's chicken coop
sleeping under a dirt encrusted
Navy peacoat

In this poultry packing plant
I'm the only "white guy"
--that's my moniker.
I get the shit jobs.

Truck loads of San Joaquin Valley
farm turkeys arrive nightly.
At seven
guys are plucking birds from cages
stringing legs together
& hanging alarmed creatures
eight feet apart
on conveyer chain hooks.

Inside the killing room, a guy
sticks an electric prod in an ear--
razors the throat.
glassy-eyed birds
zigzag around
red heads jerking,
black wings flopping vainly,
crimson gushing.
Eight inched of gore
on the floor by mid-day--
pudding thick and noxious
to clean up.

I watch the carcasses go thru
a steam room
then to a machine that
strips most feathers.

Next a line of women
guts them.
I help pluck pin feathers &
never grin at a women--
cute as some are.
I know my place
and don't covet a scarred face.

After giblets are stitched in
the chain takes birds
to chill vats where
they'll remain 24 hours.
I help here, chucking them in
or fishing them out
of freezing water.

I hustle overtime
sweep feathers and droppings,
clean vats and tables--
wash toilets & trucks.

Line workers resent Whitey;
so foreman moves me
in the office, raises my hourly
35 pennies.

My two week's pay to
the Colorado Hotel--gets
bathroom down the hall,
the luxury of sheets.

Father mother god---
a Monrovia abattoir
rekindles me.
The last glitter in my pocket
calls home.