Identification With the Scream Never Screamed

What I remember is weathered Mary holding a chicken, neck

Stretched across a flat rock in the dusty barnyard

Inheritance of the Portuguese sisters

This farm, barn leaning into the western sun, cows plodding

Across green mud into the milk house

Ranch house silent; grandmother sitting with her hands clasped

Tight into the lap of her black cotton dress while mother pays homage

I wander outside in midday heat shoes scuffing up dust clouds

Until Mary the ranch hand shows me how to do it

Kill the chicken without hurting it very much

As if she understands what I carry in my mind across the barren yard

Is the looped memory reel playing over and over

My grandfather grabbing chickens, two, three from the hen house

Hacking their heads off with a small shiny ax

Blood spurting from their necks straight up to the unforgiving sky

As they run in circles, fast and helpless, as if they could reattach

Themselves to their heads; make it all go away

As I stand transfixed with the thought whacking in my head that I can hear

Them even though my logical mind can see the beaks sworn shut

On the scattered heads in the yard; I can hear them screaming as they run

Faster and faster in wet red circles tracking their own deaths

Crying for the terrible loss of their heads and I never smelled anything

Cooking, never ate noodle soup laced with nutty chicken meat.

I stood in the yard and watched Mary; compared her way to my grandfather’s

Thought I could still hear screaming as she cut its neck enough to bleed all of its blood into the dust

The kind of scream that goes internal and deep and doesn’t come out the mouth

It’s the kind of sob you choke on and learn to swallow when you first feel your throat tighten

Learn to think away from the feeling, away from Mary and the knife and the terrible silence.