Hen House

Jennifer Saunders

The woods. No, the stretch of road
dividing forest from farm.
Gravel, potholes, mud in spring
breeding mosquitos and stink
on the no-man’s-land that protects
no one. There are so many
kinds of invasion: kudzu on the oak tree,
squirrel in the attic, a poison berry
so red among the ivy growing
over the top of the fence.
The house beside the fields,
the fields beside the woods.
A weasel circling the hen house,
the frantic rustling behind the door.

The moon rustling my curtains
calls me into the yard
where I imagine rustlers, rowdies,
ropes coiled in gloved hands.
Orion’s belt is low on the horizon:
I know this time of day.
What does blood taste like
clotted with feathers? Small neck
good for the breaking. The garden ash pit
smolders near the fence line.
Whatever came has burrowed down
and my skin is prickling.
I am the only thing out here
still walking on two legs.

Stillness prickles the hair on my arms.
Getting down on my knees I find
claw marks on the door, tunnel
scratched into the dirt. Feathers everywhere.
The weasel has been stalking the hen house
for weeks. Is it even hungry? Who cares.
I’ve had enough of failing
at every defense: locks, latches,
chicken wire set beneath the boards.
It’s coming anyway sure as mud
in spring. Pale feathers glow by flashlight,
eyes night-blind. We never see
what comes up from the floorboards,
what stops at nothing to feed a hunger.


about the writer


Jennifer Saunders is an Illinois native currently living in German-speaking Switzerland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming inBorderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Shallow Ends, UCity Review, and elsewhere. Jennifer holds an MFA from Pacific University and in the winters she teaches skating at a hockey school and drives her hockey-playing sons to many, many hockey rinks.