This poem came out of the June 19, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by rix_scaedu. You can explore Swedish flower hens and pytt i panna online. This poem belongs to the Hart's Farm series, for which more information appears on the Serial Poetry page.
Hens and Flowers
Astrid loves gathering eggs.
As she walks toward the nearest barn,
she swings her empty basket,
one that her father wove from willow stems.
The weather is growing chilly now;
Astrid wears her good wool sweater
and the hens are nesting in the manure pile
where Solvig -- who knows everything --
says that the rot keeps things warmer.
These are skånsk blommehöna,
called "flower hens" because
they come in all colors like flowers do.
There are brown ones with black speckles
and tan ones with white or brown speckles.
Some are almost all white with a few black feathers,
while others are dark with a white saddle.
The rooster is a bright red-brown
with long curling tail feathers that are black
but turn green when the sun hits them just so.
He tips his head as Astrid approaches,
staring at her with one beady eye.
"Don't peck at me, Mr. Rooster," says Astrid.
"Your hens have been working so hard!
I am just coming to get some eggs
so they will have room to lay more."
Elharn, who is standing on a box
to fix one of the posts, chuckles at Astrid
and says, "Does that actually work?"
"Most of the time," she says,
gently easing her hand under the hens
to remove the warm smooth eggs.
The rooster tugs at Astrid's foot.
She shoos him away, saying,
"Silly rooster! That's not a worm,
that's my shoelace." Astrid finds a stick
and stirs the manure pile to turn up some worms.
The rooster and hens scurry after them,
pecking and scratching.
Vendel is mucking out the stalls in the barn.
Astrid greets him as she walks past,
careful not to startle the big draft horses
because startled horses tend to kick.
There are more hens inside;
they sneak into stalls to lay their eggs in the straw
while some of the horses are outside working.
Soon Astrid's basket is full.
There will be plenty of boiled eggs for lunch
and pytt i panna, hashed potatoes with fried eggs on top.
She walks carefully now, holding the heavy basket steady
so that it does not bump against her knee.
On the way back to the kitchen,
Astrid spies a patch of wildflowers:
white and yellow like the insides of eggs,
flecks of red like the speckled hens.
She picks a bouquet for Una
and thinks about how everyone will smile
when they see the flowers on the table.