Tema StaufferCollapsing Barn with Sumac Trees, Route 9, New York, 2016 (photograph)

I slip-knot twine,
loop it on a tree branch.
A clean death, no sound
but the fall of blood
on last year’s leaves.
This is the way it’s done.
One quick pull of the knife
and I’m back to the coop
for another sleeping bird.

She wasn’t much younger than myself
when she went missing.  
They dredged the pond, but only
turned up a tire, a whole tree branch
snagged in the reeds. For three days
they dragged the dogs into the woods.
Once I thought I’d leave this town.
I could carry all I owned but there wasn’t any where
to go—just a long dirt road. A highway.
Whatever happened, I like to think she got away.

I can’t tell you how calm
the drowsy hen waits, wings still,
as I thread her foot through the twine,
hang her by her ankle.  
Thirteen bits of rope
and you’re soon to have a new feather bed.
I’ll bear no blame
if you don’t sleep well on it.


Kyla Sterling