Little Henry

by Anniel9/23/16

Little Henry came with the Easter chicks
That year. He was unlovely and his leg
Was lame. We just had to name him for Dad.
Dad pretended wrath as we let him beg
To be spared the indignity.

The chick’s feathers were black, sparse and undyed.
He never grew much, though he learned to scratch.
A pink chick became Little Henry’s friend,
Picked over all the others in the batch.
They were never separated.

Little Henry was the chicken we loved,
And we never grew tired of watching him
And his friend in the dance of their caring.
We knew that they loved, it wasn’t a whim.
Each had such fun with the other.

Daddy, too, would watch with his face perplexed,
As those two young chicks scratched and pecked and played.
It was as though we all saw a great truth
During the time Henry’s brief life was stayed.
We were not prepared to lose him.

The day began hot and clear, so the storm
Was a surprise. All of the small chicks
Were out in the yard as the rain began
And turned quickly to hail as hard as bricks.
The hail smashed everything it hit.

It was so quiet following the storm
As we all went to survey the scene.
We gasped as we found the pile of Easter
Chickens, broken and dead. Our grief was keen,
As to the side we found Henry.

He had been battered to death, but his wings
Were spread, protecting a small wiggling lump.
We started to cry when Daddy reached out
To gently lift Henry. Then with a jump,
Still safe, came the little pink chick.

I’m not certain if a chicken can love
Humans, but I know a man can care,
For Daddy grieved with us. As he wept, his
Fingers smoothed Henry, so battered and bare.
He had given life for his friend.

We all learned a lot that Eastertide from
Little Henry, who was lovely and brave.
He was the only chicken I have known
For whom our father made ready a grave –
A grave for the chicken we loved.

2008


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5 Responses to Little Henry

  1. Anniel says:

    I spent a short but intense period of time writing, mostly poetry, while our youngest daughter was first in the hospital. I decided to write about things that happened when I was young so my own children and grandchildren could better understand some of the things that made me what I am. Time was heavy on my hands while Cate had surgeries and treatments one-after-the-other. Writing poetry was kind of a catharsis for me.

    One day I remembered Little Henry and how much my dad, my brothers and I had all loved him. When I sent the poem to my children I think they all wanted their own chickens to love. My oldest daughter said, “It isn’t fair to make me cry over a dumb chicken.”

    I have two other poems about my father I want to post, then what is called a “Corona of Sonnets” about a messenger who saved my life, or at least my faith and sanity, during the early days of our youngest daughter’s illness.

    Funny how putting things out by writing can be so revealing about the blessings we all receive, if we can keep our hearts and minds open.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    This is how people care about their pets. We have an area out back where several cats are buried; Elizabeth even got some slates to write on and place on their graves, but never got around to doing it. I can still remember my reaction reading the epitaphs for pets in Pet Sematary (a year after my cat Gregory died).

  3. Gibblet says:

    Thank you for sharing Little Henry with us! I have witnessed the tender care between little animals which you have so beautifully described.

  4. Rosalys says:

    I want to cry! I’ve read about a mother hen who protected her chicks from fire; they survived beneath her spread wings. But that is mother love (or instinct.) But for friendship? Extraordinary! No wonder you loved him.

    • Anniel says:

      It used to be the job of poets to stir the finer emotions in the souls of men. Little Henry did that for us. Writing something true is a joy, no matter the format. That’s why so many readers here appreciate you Rosalys, and everyone who is open minded.

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