Home > Contributors > James Gouldthorpe > Jeanette L. Miller

 

Jeanette L. Miller


AS I TAKE IN GOULDTHORPE'S (wild) DUCK MY MIND'S EYE SEGUES TO (domestic) CHICKENS AND, IN RESPONSE TO HIS NARRATIVE IMAGES, I WRITE MY FIRST NARRATIVE POEM

 

I watched Grandpa Peterseim carry wooden crates

from his pick-up to the back yard.

The heads of old, white-feathered chickens

protruded through the slats of the crates,

reminding me of moose and deer heads mounted

on wood plaques hanging on the wall of the garden shed,

a small storage room

where G’pa kept the lawn mower, garden tools,

guns, tents, and fishing poles.  A gunny sack

held two dozen wooden ducks painted to look real.

 

One by one, Grandma took a hen, by its legs, from the crate

and placed its head on a wood block near the trash burner,

its contents in continuous flame.

She stretched the hen’s neck, a coil under feathers.

Alive, it appeared frozen on the block,

not knowing it could run away. 

Grandma chopped off its head with a red-handled axe

and threw it into the fire.

 

Headless, one hen’s body ran as far as it could,

parallel to the clothesline, then slowed down

like a wind-up toy that needs to have its key

turned again.  Sometimes G’ma didn’t use the axe.

She held the bird at arm’s length,

twirled it round and round in one direction

until the bird hung lifeless in her hand.

 

If she’d let go, the chicken could have soared  --

a feathered kite  --  over the walnut tree, the strawberry patch,

and over the lightning rod , a metal rooster standing on top

of arrows marking directions

on the roof of Grandma & Grandpa’s house.

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Great_American_Novel__13.jpg

Jeanette Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop & an MA in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, VA.  She taught creative writing at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, IA and at The Univ. of Southern Indiana in Evansville before working as a mental health counselor in not-for-profit clinics in the state of Iowa.

After her retirement Jeanette worked on her memoir, I HELD MY BREATH, as a resident of The Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, MA and the Vermont Studio Center.  Excerpts from the memoir were published recently in the centennial issue of “Yuan Yang, a Journal of East and West “ at the Univ. of HongKong.

........................................

Gouldthorpe’s duck  -- especially because a hand was holding the duck by its neck  -- triggered an emotional response from me that manifested in this poem.  I’ve been working on my memoir; consequently, the story of my grandmother killing chickens was in my mind and James Gouldthorpe’s art teased it to the page.  

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Great_American_Novel__13.jpg

Jeanette Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop & an MA in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, VA.  She taught creative writing at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, IA and at The Univ. of Southern Indiana in Evansville before working as a mental health counselor in not-for-profit clinics in the state of Iowa.

After her retirement Jeanette worked on her memoir, I HELD MY BREATH, as a resident of The Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, MA and the Vermont Studio Center.  Excerpts from the memoir were published recently in the centennial issue of “Yuan Yang, a Journal of East and West “ at the Univ. of HongKong.

........................................

Gouldthorpe’s duck  -- especially because a hand was holding the duck by its neck  -- triggered an emotional response from me that manifested in this poem.  I’ve been working on my memoir; consequently, the story of my grandmother killing chickens was in my mind and James Gouldthorpe’s art teased it to the page.