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Poem: "Hen-Feathered" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Hen-Feathered"

This poem was written outside the fishbowl sessions.  It has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.  The title terminology refers to a trait in a few chicken breeds where roosters have the same tailfeathers as hens.  See also the feather-picking page.  You can read the other poems in the Fledgling Grace series via the Serial Poetry page.


The Fledging drew attention
to something that most people
knew but rarely thought about
before they grew wings --
the way that some species of bird
bore the same feathers whether male or female,
while others looked quite different
and some seemed completely unrelated.

With the exotics, you had to know the bird
in both forms to distinguish between them,
but some common birds like cardinals were easier,
a clear distinction of color between red and reddish-brown.

Chickens were simple because of the tails
that came along with the wings --
the long curling sickles of the roosters
and the short straight feathers of the hens.
It was a common manifestation,
with different types of chicken appearing
in populations of people around the world.

Most of the time, a person's plumage matched,
their bird sex the same as their human sex,
but not quite always. 

The first to be recognized
were the hen-feathered men
with short straight tails instead of
the fancier rooster tails.

They turned out to be
all different flavors of queer --
homosexual, intersex,
gender variant, crossdressers,
and countless more --

all suddenly sporting
a very visible indication
of an inner truth.

There were rooster-women, too,
stone butches and brave-women
and female-to-male transgender folk.
They strutted through the streets
and crowed about their new plumage.

Not all of the queer people
had feathers of the opposite sex
and many who did belonged to bird species
without visual distinctions in wings or tails.
No one knew why this happened;
it simply was so.

It started whole new arguments
about the politics of identity
and the identity of politicians

particularly when so many
of the most famous homophobes
turned out to be hen-feathered.

Some of them tried to hide it;
they took up feather-picking
and removed the offending plumage
to replace it with something more masculine.

This was quickly discovered
by paparazzi and more legitimate reporters,
and soon a new term emerged
for such hypocritical bigots:


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4 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: November 24th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
*LOL* Stealing that word.... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 24th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)


And it's released into the wild! FLY, my pretties!

It wasn't until I'd reached the end of the poem and written that last line that I realized what a useful word it was, so I hoped it might get picked up.

It would be so much fun to have a cartoon of someone getting one of those glorified feather-dusters fitted, in the style of cartoons that poke fun at bad wigs or toupees.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: December 28th, 2016 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I am reminded of a Looney Tunes cartoon, wherein Daffy pretended to be a rooster, for whatever reason. He took the handle off of a plunger, replaced it with a feather duster, and stuck it on his butt. With a red rubber glove on his head for the coxcomb.

I like this poem.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 28th, 2016 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)


LOL yes, I remember that episode.

I'm glad you enjoyed the poem.
4 comments or Leave a comment