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her hen - zainab athumani


The hen potters about the front yard,

blissfully unaware

of my jealous gaze.

She carries her plump body,

feathered in tan, gold, and

creamy white,

on her stick-like feet,

dipping her inquisitive head

into the ground to furrow for food.

For her, the toil must seem endless.

There are days of bounty, days of

famine. Days of yields,

days of an empty nest.

But all the while, her red crown

will still warm under the Italian sun,

blind to the treasure of calling this place her home.

I visit sporadically, carrying city smoke and stress,

polluting her countryside bliss.

She looks at me, inquisitive but wary,

and follows me around the yard

trackable by the mere sound of her pecking,

the feeling of the dust,

the glimpse of her crown.

One day, I will return and she will no longer be here.

The yard will become mine and I will reject it.

And I will miss the sound of her pecking,

the feeling of the dust,

and I will don a crown of my own.

I look at the track marks in the dirt and I feel sick.

I feel small in her wake; my footsteps

feel gargantuan and disgusting

alongside hers,

and yet

it seems like her mark will forever

overshadow my own.

My visits become less frequent, more meaningful.

And each time it becomes harder and harder to see myself by her side.


Zainab Athumani is a Kenyan/Italian writer and director living in Cambridge, England. She has produced plays at the Edinburgh Fringe and most recently directed a performance of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit. You can find links to her work through her Twitter, @ZainabAthumani

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