Today's poem is by Maurice Manning

A Bestiary

The reason the woman was fond of chickens,
according to another woman

I overheard while mulling over
the scale with an ounce of turnip seed

hung in its claw—and whose opinion
was beyond dispute—the reason why?

Well, she was raised up with a rooster.
And that was that, the old nature

versus nurture debate resolved
in favor of the nurture, but let's

not leave the nature out. Clearly,
the woman came from people who knew

their child should be acquainted with
the big ideas, one of which,

that's right, is happiness, and roosters,
though prone to swings of mood and squabble,

are happy in the main. I knew
a woman raised up with a goat.

She couldn't read, but I don't think
it was related to the goat.

Though goats can sway a person, it's true,
and would rather eat a book than read it,

a goat won't hold you back. Were you
raised up with a beast beside you? I mean

a serious beast. Well, if you were,
you know you never owned it. Did

you ever give your thumb to a calf
and feel how hard it pulls, and feel

the pulling pull you? I don't care
if it has spurs or horns, a beast

will raise you up, and if you don't think
you need to be raised up, I'm afraid,

it doesn't matter what you read;
you won't he happy, not in the way

that roosters are. I hate to be
the one to tell you, but even a girl

as poor as dirt will let her heart
be taken with a rooster, the cock

of the commonest walk, and you can crow
about it till the cows come home.

Copyright © 2006 Maurice Manning All rights reserved
from Lyric
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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