Ah, but the poets knew! Hear we are (hear hear!) at your Poetry Slow Down, our weekly hour news shoe since 2008—if the show fits, hear it!–the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day” (so says William Carlos Williams), produced by Zappa Johns, and I’m your show’s creator and host, Professor Barbara Mossberg, aka Dr. B, and my team, including Nico Moss, and I’m here live at the Diplomat Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, on Mothers Day, as we unruffle the mystery of how and why chickens are being brought in as a front line to combat elderly loneliness, especially in nursing homes . . .
We’ve been thinking a lot about what the ancient story of the Sphinx calls, metaphorically, three legs in the afternoon, characterizing the later stages of our lives as needing a third leg of support—a cane . . . A few weeks ago we focused our show on the news of a phenomenon in Japan of women stealing a mango or tea bag to get themselves arrested, so they could go to prison, because—and this is a sad thing for Mothers Day–even if they were married, perhaps especially, even if they had children, or grandchildren, they could get attention “for the first time”—so it was not a case of being homeless and taking the seemingly desperate measure of going to jail—they were seeking community, seeking a way to be seen, heard, understood: Our Poetry Slow Down turned to poetry to explore and illuminate this need to be seen, how poetry in fact sees us and hears us—as Rilke says, “there is nothing in this poem that does not see you.” : we don’t have to go to jail to be recognized.
Now today, we probe another phenomenon in the news, on the same theme: elderly loneliness, as people in institutions, surrounded by others, experience loneliness: and it’s being dealt with now not by jail, but chickens. Chickens?! Yes! You’re hearing right!
Now it’s possible that you think you are mishearing—and I actually have a poem about this miscommunication about chickens—its title is:
Every Day I Don’t Eat Chicken Is A Good Day
I didn’t actually say this.
I said every day I’m up an kickin is a good day, part of my old lady moxie vibe with the ATT consultant on the phone helping me with my U-verse payment that I still don’t understand why it is different from the cell phone and I have no idea what U-verse is, is it a kind of poetry You Tube that someone puts out in into the universe, but I just do my best to make a payment, so they are searching for my record and it’s taking a really long time and it hurts to breathe and to talk from this camel called pneumonia who called on me and has not left and he says to me in the middle of our proceedings about account number and passwords none of which in my case seem to work and I’m rasping like Marlon Brando with a bad case of laryngitis and choking, what kind of day are you having ma’am is it a good day and I say, well I already told you what I said, and he said every day you don’t eat chicken is a good day?
Yes it was a cliché cover and I’m not proud of that as a poet but I was pretty proud of myself for presenting myself as perky and positive considering I was struggling to breathe, up an kickin, not bad for a feeble-voiced old lady and I was really getting into that with my whoops and wheezes and sighs. But now I think about the truth in U-verse, how every day I don’t eat chicken is a good day. I consider this from the point of view of the chicken. Certainly that is to be factored in when we count our blessings. It is not only just our own physical enterprise going on but all the contributors in the universe, the U of the universe, our own special part in it. Chickens, their squawk and cackle, their waddle, their incredible ability out of the mess of agitated feathers and smelly droop to produce a perfect oval egg without cracking it in the process. All right, that’s magical. How does it do this? This fragile egg formed so perfectly like the universe, a perfect sphere, and whole, intact, the most coherent clean object of existence in sight, in imagination, out of a really scattered disorganized being.
The unhappiness of a chicken giving its life for the sake of soup or barbeque even if it causes happiness in others is not really worth whatever happiness it brings me. I can live without chickens, I decide, without chickens inside me or out. I call to pay my account for whatever it is, a kind of verse that is about the universe that invokes what you, your personal self about whom Ralph Waldo Emerson said, if you go into the deepest most private most unique part of your own self and express this you will speak for the man in the street the maid with the pail, and I receive a new way to be in our world, a way to have a good day, a day a saint would approve, and angels, who love chickens, a way to be up an kickin, and it does seem that this is my verse indeed that U-verse invoked, and it’s a good day all around, a day I count my true blessings that are far beyond me, reaching far into the universe, a day delivered intact and whole like a simple perfect egg.
So, our radio show The Poetry Slow Down takes up this ruffle and rustle of feathers for what poetry can tell us just what it is about chickens that may bring solace and joy at three legs in the afternoon! And perhaps what it is about being elderly, or, and, being at all. . . .
A vegetarian show . . . Are you ready? Nobody here but us chickens—but that’s everyone!
© Barbara Mossberg 2018