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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Hens and Flowers"

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

16 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siege From: siege Date: June 22nd, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, just like hens to lay in every corner they can find, especially if it's hard to get to!

And I like the flowers at the end. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>Oh, just like hens to lay in every corner they can find, especially if it's hard to get to!<<

They like to find warm places, or hidden places, which can sometimes be pesky. But when they're free-range you don't have to feed them much grain and they eat pests.

>> And I like the flowers at the end. :) <<

The art of happiness lies in seeing the beauty around you, even when you're looking for some other thing.
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: June 22nd, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pretty!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 01:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like this. I like the flower hens -- they remind me of the millefiori chickens from Italy (which also means "many flowers").
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

It makes me happy when readers feel that a poem matches the tone of its source culture. I aim for that as best I can.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: July 3rd, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
As I read this series, I think about smells and how what seems to smell ok to these characters would make me wretch.

A bunch of people working on a farm, living together, none of them wearing deodorant, and all really needing it. And in the summer - ugh!

A girl climbing into a manure pile and stirring the shit around while wearing her GOOD sweater. I've taught laundry programs to Girl Scouts. Cleaning clothes is HARD work, and when your wool sweater smells like shit, super UGH.

je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: July 3rd, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this series and this is a good story/poem. Just my thoughts, above, as I read it.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: July 3rd, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
PS your poems dont seem like poems to me. They seem like stories with really short lines of text. Hence, story poems.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 3rd, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

Some of my poems are narrative poems. I write -- barely, because I don't like straight prose poems -- the full spectrum from poetry to prose. Some people feel that my free-verse poems read like poetry, others feel they read like prose. I do write differently in poetry than in prose, but sometimes the differences are more subtle than others.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 3rd, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>As I read this series, I think about smells and how what seems to smell ok to these characters would make me wretch.<<

Different people do vary. Me, I'm familiar enough with farm smells that I don't mind them.

>>A girl climbing into a manure pile and stirring the shit around while wearing her GOOD sweater. I've taught laundry programs to Girl Scouts. Cleaning clothes is HARD work, and when your wool sweater smells like shit, super UGH.<<

Well, not a fancy sweater for wearing to town; a practical sweater for everyday work outside before it's so cold as to require a coat. Also not a fresh manure pile: it's generating heat, so about halfway broken down. That smells more musty than anything else. However, wool does tend to absorb odors.

Let's say there are reasons why they have a whole team of women doing seamstress and washing work in the linen room!
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: April 10th, 2014 05:07 am (UTC) (Link)
My family had a rooster just like that when I was a child. He was very beautiful, but mean as a snake.

There's a name for my favorite breakfast! Yay! I make hash browns with onions and ham, and put fried egg on top, I just called it breakfast.

I love this series.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 10th, 2014 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> My family had a rooster just like that when I was a child. He was very beautiful, but mean as a snake. <<

So did we. I needed a broom to fend him off when I went to gather eggs. He was, at the time, nearly as tall as I was.

>> There's a name for my favorite breakfast! Yay! I make hash browns with onions and ham, and put fried egg on top, I just called it breakfast. <<

There are many breakfast skillet dishes, tasty things.

>> I love this series. <<

Thank you! I'm happy to hear that.

Feel free to request more at any relevant prompt call. Next up is the crowdfunding Creative Jam on March 19-20 with a theme of "characterization."
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 9th, 2014 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
How do you keep the eggs from being fertilized/know not to take the ones that are? The farm I'm most familiar with solves the question by not keeping a rooster so I'm not familiar with the particulars but I've cracked an egg with a mostly formed chick in it and its not an experience you'd want to have a second time (not to mention the waste of eggs) so I imagine there must be some way of doing it

--Anna Libertas (from Ao3)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2014 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Tradionally people did it just by grabbing the eggs immediately. The embryos take time to develop, so a fresh egg is hard to tell if it's been fertilized or not.

Some people don't mind finding the occasional half-grown chick in an egg. Some cultures have considered it a delicacy, go figure. As you said, separating hens from roosters also works, but if you want chicks to continue the flock, then you need roosters. Didn't used to be the case that everyone ordered their chicks in the mail, you had to raise your own.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 10th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

I suppose that would work, wouldn't it. I can see why it could be considered a delecacy though it's one if likely be rather put off by

As for the farm I mentioned, I believe they borrow a rooster from the owners sister, who also keeps chickens on her farm. The sisters farm is farther upstate so I've never been but I've gathered it's mich larger than the one near me, less people allows for lower land prices and such
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 10th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> I suppose that would work, wouldn't it. <<

You just have to know where hens like to hide their eggs -- they have favorite places. It helps to have kids who consider egg hunting to be fun. I always got a kick out of it.

>> I can see why it could be considered a delecacy though it's one if likely be rather put off by <<

I probably wouldn't be attracted to embryo eggs as food either. As something cool to poke at, yes.

>> As for the farm I mentioned, I believe they borrow a rooster from the owners sister, who also keeps chickens on her farm. The sisters farm is farther upstate so I've never been but I've gathered it's mich larger than the one near me, less people allows for lower land prices and such. <<

That works too.
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