by Heather Treseler
winner, 2021 WB Yeats Society Contest
All strut and gibbering, wattles and caruncles,
tom turkeys parade at dusk, panoply
of feathers fanned, snoods
engorged and dangling over their sharpened
beaks while their heads turn from red
to white to blue in tricolor
blush, pulsing placards above their sexual taxis.
Hens, loitering in shade, graze acorns
and the occasional grub, an eye
cocked, nonplussed. They've seen this all before.
Ben Franklin thought the fowl “vain
& silly” but respectable, more
American than the thieving eagle. Hens sense
that courtship, like government, rarely
is as dainty as ballet of bowerbirds.
And of the preening toms? Who hasn't felt
the need to wear a brighter face for love
or war? At dusk, they flock
to the wooded edge of town. (And mate, quietly,
on ground.) Then, one-by-one, take running
starts, wings pumping,
and like battered 747s ascend to perch on spiky
feet, nestling along limbs longer than
their own. Small miracle, how
they vault their twenty pounds of poult in air
as after a day of too many hours:
uphill, the last set of stairs.
Galliformes, sharp-sighted by day, are night blind
prey. My predator is my dark. After love,
I, too, sleep on a second story.