Aunt Nellie sent us out to gather eggs

Aunt Nellie sent us out to gather eggs
The hens were hiding them again
trying to “go set” and raise a brood.
(Aunt Nellie said that wasn’t good)
when they set, they didn’t lay.
Aunt Nellie needed each red hen
to give her one good egg
every day.
It was like an Easter hunt
in dusty hayloft
and darkest corner of the barn,
behind the shed,
among the ragged weeds
along the back fence rail.
Each egg was carefully placed
in Aunt Nellie’s blue tin pail.
One we found dropped
all alone
in the bare dust of the chicken yard
as if some hen couldn’t take the time
to hide her nest
or didn’t care
to take a stand
for motherhood.
The last eggs I gathered
belonged to a “broody” hen I found
setting on a clutch of fourteen
hidden in last year’s tangled grass
beneath the old hay rake.
I used a stick to poke her out
and reached in between rusty teeth
to get the eggs
all smooth and brown and warm
from her body heat.
She fluffed her feathers,
flapped her wings,
and ran back and forth
screeching out her grief.
“Murderer!” she cried “Thief! Thief!”

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