Jeremiah: A Poem

a prose poem by Thomas Davis

5 – 7 – 5 [ the Haiku ]
June 14, 2012

the haiku is like an egg,

by Jim Kleinhenz

Jeremiah was a rooster. He was also a poet and the handsomest, best fighting rooster in the hen yard. His comb was as red as a fire blazing in the darkest of night. He had shiny green neck, brown back, yellow and burnished red wing, and black and brown tail feathers. His beak was as yellow as banana skins, and when he strutted he was a rooster possessed. All and all, he was one of the smartest, handsomest, fightingest, most beautiful roosters who had ever lived.

Normally Jeremiah, like all hens and roosters, was a creature of habit. Every morning he got up at dawn with other roosters and serenaded the rising sun to wake up the farmyard. Then he flapped to the ground, pecked around searching for a kernel of corn or chicken feed, and started his daily routine of romancing hens, fighting roosters, and parading around so that all who knew the value of roosters could see just what kind of rooster he was.

Normally Jeremiah, in spite of being a poet, had little time for reflection. From the time he got up with other roosters in the morning until he perched in the henhouse beside a bevy of his favorite hens on the pine wood roosting shelves before sleep, he kept moving. He scratched, bobbed his head, clucked, cackled, or crowed, depending on the situation, romanced hens, and generally kept himself busy with the important minutiae of life. But then, one evening, after dilly dallying with Mrs. Henspeck for one whole afternoon, soaking up spring’s early heat, puffing out chest feathers, and jumping ten feet into the air flapping his wings, he had an inspiration for a poem.

He failed to contain himself once revelation exploded in his head. He announced he had just had an inspiration for a poem to the entire hen yard and allowed himself to flap around in outrage when Wilber Snideboss huumphed and bobbed his head and remarked that he, for one, would believe Jeremiah was a poet when he stopped talking about poetry all the time and actually said a poem. To say that Jeremiah’s sense of himself was badly damaged would be an overstatement, but then again, what would you expect a rooster like Jeremiah to feel at such insensitive understanding of the poet’s craft? The truth is, after a little more dilly dallying with Mrs. Henspeck and yet another moment of squawking ecstasy, he slept all night without a worry in his head. He really was a poet, after all.

The next morning he was off his roost looking at the small upside-down-bowl-shaped hills east of the farm before the first gray tinges of morning were in the sky. When he had calculated there was enough light for everyone to see his feathers, he jumped off his perch and flapped his wings as proud as old Ben Peacock who lived north of the chicken yard beside the duck pond ringed by cattails and willow trees.

“Cock a doodle do!” he crowed.

Mrs. Henspeck, feeling the empty space beside her on the perch, popped open her large brown eyes and cackled. Fifteen hens fell off their roosts from the surprise of it all. The rest of the brood woke up, but clucked and shook their heads, convinced that Jeremiah had finally given up the ghost and descended into imbecility. All except for Mrs. Sleepeye, of course. She opened one eye, saw it was still dark, and wisely went back to sleep, determined not to interrupt her very satisfactory life just because Jeremiah had a strange wobble when he bobbed his head.

“What’s the meaning of this outrage?” Mrs. Leadbottom, the hen house’s most glorious self-appointed leader demanded. “Dawn is not here. Rooster-time has not come yet!”

Jeremiah preened feathers, somersaulted over backwards, flipping one wing out to make him swerve just before he landed, and then, with humility, puffed his chest.

“I have a poem to tell,” he said simply.

Immediately thirty of his favorite hens, led by Mrs. Henspeck, flapped off their roosts, if they weren’t already sitting dazed on the hen house floor, and clustered around him, brown eyes growing even browner, feathers all aflutter from excitement. They had all laid Jeremiah inspired eggs. They had always known he was a poet. He’d told them so on many an occasion. Jeremiah looked impatiently as Mrs. Leadbottom and scratched the grainy floor.

“Well?” he asked.

Jeremiah’s favorites turned to Mrs. Leadbottom and stared at her. Mrs. Leadbottom turned her head and pecked Mrs. Sleepeye on her wing. Mrs. Sleepeye opened both eyes and looked around as if she’d accidentally got lost in a henhouse she’d never seen before. Mrs. Leadbottom flapped elegantly off her roost, and, with the whole henhouse, followed Jeremiah outside.

Once outside Jeremiah glanced quickly at huddling eastern hills, then fanned out his huge audience in a circle around him by leaping in the air three times in succession and landing at a different spot each time. Wilber Snideboss, who, during good weather, always slept on the post where he led the roosters in their morning crow, swooped to the ground mad as a wet hen.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. “The hens are going to catch cold. It’s too early for them to be outside. We haven’t crowed the sun up yet!”

Jeremiah blinked toward the east again and strained his neck importantly. He was a beautiful rooster. Light from the sun that blazed still unseen behind the darkness of eastern hills was just beginning to add the sky’s first hints of blue.

“I have a poem to tell,” he said grandly. “An eastern poem. It is one of the most stupendous, original, beautiful, wonderful, magnificent poems ever spoken in this humble, plain, simple, livable, ordinary henyard!”

The hens, even Mrs. Leadbottom and Mrs. Sleepeye, gasped. “What words!” they thought to themselves. “What incredible depths of meaning!”

Wilber Snideboss was beaten, and he knew it. Maybe the braggart was a poet after all. He looked at the other roosters and saw darkness in their eyes. They were stunned. A rooster poet? Who would have dreamed it was possible?

Jeremiah flapped his wings, soared twenty feet straight up in the air, and landed in a long, swooping arc, scattering hens even as they gasped in admiration. Then he twirled around on one leg, flashed beautiful wings from his sides, and snapped them back into his body with military precision. When he stopped twirling, he pecked magnificently at empty air.

“Poetry,” he grandly told the other birds. “Is the most ancient art mastered by chickens. There is no greater art known to the henyard. Laying an egg is a beautiful, pure thing to do.” The hens all sighed. “But a poem is high drama and beauty all wrapped into a single moment that will be remembered forever.”

He glanced nervously to the East. Light was flooding the sky. The day was going to be glorious with high cirrus clouds and sky the color of blue robin eggs. He could just make out the outlines of pine and ponderosa on the distant hills. The world was awash in the fresh barnyard smell of spring.

“Okay, okay, enough of the show,” Mrs. Leadbottom said impatiently. “We’ve seen that. What’s the poem? It’s almost time for the roosters to crow.”

Wilber flapped over to where the henhouse leader was and nestled insinuatingly against her black and white feathers. Maybe this would work out okay after all.

Jeremiah ignored Mrs. Leadbottom, scratched the ground, crowed his high spirits, and went spiraling into the air again. He hovered for a moment above his audience as the hens, with the exception of Mrs. Leadbottom, gasped. He drifted to earth.

“Are there any questions?” he asked as his feet touched the ground.

“I’ve never seen such a poem,” Mrs. Henspeck sighed.

The hens cackled appreciatively, filling the morning air with their voices. Jeremiah puffed his chest again and scratched himself around in a circle. He quick-sneaked a look east again. Dawn was now lining the hills with fire. The horizon shimmered with coming day. Jeremiah strutted toward the split rail fence where Wilber Snideboss spent his nights. Mrs. Leadbottom snorted as Jeremiah’s tail feathers weaved back and forth with his importance. Wilber gave her a loving peck on the neck. Jeremiah leaped to Wilber’s favorite crowing post and turned proudly to his audience.

“My poem,” he announced.

The henyard was silent as hens and roosters strained to catch each word. Jeremiah preened feathers and puffed out his beautiful chest again.

“The sun also rises!” he trumpeted, his voice as silver as the sound of church bells that rang over the farm on Sunday mornings.

And behind him, over the humps of the green hills, burning red with morning, the sun rose into the blue sky.

Wilber Snideboss, startled, jumped from Mrs. Leadbottom onto the fence beside Jeremiah and crowed at the top of his shrill voice. Other roosters flapped behind Wilber’s lead and crowed even before they had reached their usual perches. Jeremiah crowed again as other roosters from other farms joined the chorus. All over the farm farm animals and the farm family got up from their stalls, pens, and beds and began moving around.

Jeremiah crowed again just for the sheer exhilaration of it. Then he flapped down into the henyard to be mobbed by admiring, cackling hens.

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