His gift is plucking
Kosher chickens, killed hourly
and as each moist carcass comes to him
he handles it with the care of a father
pulling a splinter from a child,
delicately extracting each feather
leaving open pores
the size of the tiny holes
in the pierced ears of a young girl.
A small fragile daughter he once held
in the bitter winter of the Ukraine
until night sweats and coughs
robbed her blood of air, leaving only
the cold wind on her father's back.
They had lived through the Spring
of crazed gang lootings, their home gutted
saying "We are Jews and because of it,
today we will settle for a slice of onion
and rusty herring". Now without
his smallest or his wife, he comes to us,
in the open air market of the Bronx.
Chickens hang in the window
under Hebrew writing
dangling by their feet.
With every feather he plucks
he rocks back and forth on his chair
in low, quiet tones,
engrossed in the chicken
as if it were a prayer book he was reading.
It is a mourner's ache. The sound of remembering.
© 1990 by Lauren Kaushansky
Lauren Kaushansky teaches creative writing, art, and drama in Seattle. "Flicker" was first published in Seattle Review, Spring/Summer 1990. Her poems have been published in numerous other journals, including Spindrift and Arnazella, and her plays have been produced in Northwest youth theaters and schools.