Do you know Jesus?  Nope; But I do know inner-city chickens

Do you know Jesus? Nope; But I do know inner-city chickens

Spring warmth. Strokes worn cheek.
Leaves bud. Purple-green.
People. Many. Languid on porches.
Conversations murmur.
Rippling.
Past me.

Poor. Yes.
Graffiti. Sure.
Popcans. Paper. Old lunches.
Extend skyward.
From cold hard winter drifts.
Melting. Like glaciers. Trapped between ice past and furnace future.
Drip. Dripping. Drip.
Into tomorrow. Yours. Mine.
Ours.

Cars. Trapped by street-side gutters.
Scabbing. Sinking.
Forgotten. Many.
Where they belong.
Sidewalks overflow.
Shopping carts. Bikes.
Street hockey nets.
And chalk. More chalk.
Pictographs.
Numbers. 1 to 8. And back.

Visiting chickens.
Inner-city chickens.
Our radioshow.
Bernard. From Victoria.
A dad. Conservative. Yes.
Mary Contrary. From Calgary.
A mum. Not conservative.
But all is love.
When wrapped in eggshells.
Warmed with earnest care.
Child eyes. Open.
Wide in wonder.
Fun. Laughs.
Dogs. Cats.
Hey son. Time to walk the chicken.

Now. Meeting city chickens.
For real.
Cluck. Cluck.
8-foot gate creaks.
Distracted. Dog.
Big. Black. Happy grin. Him.
Scar on leg. Old dog bites. Me.
History. Only history.
Grimace. Go. Good dog. Good.

Backyard. Dwarfed by fence.
Keeps out eyes.Raised bed.Garden.
Chickens? Maybe not.
Wrong yard. Maybe?
Smell. No. Noise. No.
Just Fred. The dog.Sniffs my leg.
My leg bone.

Wrong.
Three birds.
Scritch.Scratch in spring dirt.
Combs. Wobble hello.
Strange. City birds.

Beautiful. History.
Past. Erased by Robot Science, Inc.
White. Cloned. Water-fat. Beak-free.
NO.
These plumes. Shimmer.
Brown. Feathers fine.
Edges etched in tan.
Black.  White. Black.
No McMuffins.
Here.

Hidey coop. One. Floors. Two.
Sun roof. Ramp.
Bulb. Water stays water.
Even at 40 below Celsius.

Big jars. Grain full.
Dip in palm. Mine.
Thanks.
Feed. Beaks hard.
Sharp. Black.
Trace my lifeline.
Eyes squeezed shut. Blood.
No.
Silly man. Drama man.
Beaks hard. And gentle.
Click. Clack.
Cluck.

One last bird.
Silky black. Fragile small.
Broody. Moody.
Dig out of coop. Lift. Cradle in arm.
Fragile.
Shivers. Fear or funk.
Heat. Building.
Hatches my fingers.
Like tiny, pointy eggs.
Loving sad. Hers.
Peace. Mine.

Sirens. Wail.
Planes. Drone.
Tracing furry lines of hope above traffic noise.
Kids screech. Laughing.
Behind walls. Fences. So many.
Back alleys. Dumpsters.
Climbing. Diving.
No yard pools or carpools here.
Inside. Peace still scratching.
Backyard peace.

Against (by)law.
Dumb. Ass. Politics. Politicians.
For 20 years. Anyway.
Cows. Goats. And chickens.
Leave. Stay away.
Our great city. Winnipeg. Reborn. Modern.
Yes. Watch us grow.
Urban(e). International.
Loss is theirs. Mine.
Till now.

Put moody queeny. Back.
Bow goodbyes. And thanks.
Hold egg as gift. Pale green.
Like Chinese jade. That one.
Chalk-rough. Cool on cheek.Still.
On my counter.
Waiting.

Radioshow is over. Packing up gear.
By. Birds. Bye.
Second floor. Across the street.
Some young kid.
Looks. Out. Window open.
Curtains shift in breeze.
Nigeria? Uganda?
Canada.
Teeth flash white. Voice and accent honey warm.
Asks. With love.
Do you know Jesus?
Do you love Jesus?

Nope. No way.
But I do know love.
Chicken love.
At least. Now.
He can’t. Won’t.
At least. Not yet.
Click. Cluck.
Scritch. Scratch.
Scratching lines of change.
On piles of backyard dirt.

Stef McLachlan is a professor at the University of Manitoba and co-host of Shaking the Tree Radio.

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