You

written by Lynley Tulloch
(Faculty, The University of Waikato, New Zealand)

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I write as I feel the animal, the not-me, the you. You. Hen. Sitting there in your cage, I sense you in my veins, I see your bars from the inside, I hear your heart beat slowly, like it might stop any moment in the timeless air. I write to tell your story of prison to a dead audience.

It’s an endless circular prison. You try to stretch; as I write I can feel your limbs seeking, hen. But there is barely room to turn around. Your feet shift on sloping steel bars, grimly searching for earth they will never feel. Your heart yearns for something, but you don’t know what. So you stretch uncomfortably, lifting wings that will never fly, shredding useless feathers against unforgiving bars, laying eggs. The prison becomes your mind; your mind becomes a prison. I am writing your prison. Putting your head through the bars you tilt your head to one side.

An ancient song echoes on the edges of existence, I can hear it too, hen, it calls from my words. Rustling leaves, tinkling sunlight, gurgling water. Just out of your mind. Out of existence and out of your mind. A long night arrives, your feathers fall like leaves, your skin bleeds in tiny streams, your eyes turn dull like a dank pond. You stop laying eggs, hen. A death sentence.

The song dims. Crouching and huddled. Then someone lifts you. I wrote them in to your story, hen, I am sorry. Desperately you claw at the cage. The ancient song has now stopped completely, you cannot hear it, and you do not know it any more. You are yanked from one prison and into another. Briefly, you glimpse the sun; feel the air as you are loaded on a truck. The song begins again, I hear it too, hen. A slight hope is reborn. Your wing hurts; I feel it hen, I can, it is broken. I broke your wing with my words.

Then you are hanging upside down, shackled. The knife slices your throat and blood now runs in a stream of pain, coats my written words. You flap your broken wing. The song of death is sweet, I can taste it hen, its melody is the dripping of the blood, forming rivulets, free at last. 

But the audience don’t hear it, hen. They are dead too.

Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Media

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