The Cock

I must not have behaved during my first go around. The half-formed sin from humanhood lingers in my gizzard, curdling like gasoline putty. Truth be told, I can’t recall that life or what I did to land myself here. Now my existences last eight weeks, and they’re coming by the thousands. For instance, yesterday I was born in Gibbon, Nebraska. I am a Nebraskan, and Hell goes by Orlin Ranch around here, or so the canvas feed bags suggest.

“Goddamn Jews always actin’ like they’re owed somethin,” the Foreman spits into his cell before he dumps breakfast on my crown. This rube: my new God of fortune. I bet he’ll butcher me dirty. The man’s tight on cash. He’s tight on cash because of the liberals and the gays and the women whose daddies spoiled them; the blacks, Russians, Asians and not to mention the Arabs who are going to put an end to this here anyway. But he’s got it all wrong—the bees are dying out.

“It’s the bees,” I offer. But he doesn’t see my face or care to. If only he knew the truth. “Don’t worry about the rest, just save the bees!”

All the same, this foreman will fatten me token-by-token. I pace, I pellet. I spy dirt. I spy beetles and seed. I tune into the hens’ frequencies at night to learn which dope is yearning for me, and then I stick it to her. Doesn’t matter. When it’s time, I am pinned upside down to a tree and slaughtered with quick clean tools or manhands. If only the radio would cut out in that tunnel and I could float as nothing for even a stitch. But instantly upon my death, I begin pecking again from inside a new shuck, a sheath away from the coop’s shrill hoopla. I don’t resist it anymore. I am mindless, bound to emerge scrawny as Sisyphus.

There are millions of us, not one with a name. Some of them have been repeating this circle since Cleopatra. We’ve mostly resigned ourselves, but I haven’t entirely lost the urge. Sometimes for a thrill I play my what if game: What if I found a mirror? What if I sing? I’m only decent at this game; I’m not so creative anymore.

My predicament wouldn’t be as bad if it weren’t for the colors, which were never so whole until now. Hogback Mountain drenches my new eyes like a garlic den; the sky is so blue it feels like the inside of a woman’s cheek. The grasses chirp in puny, pixie stampedes. I’m beside myself. What if the pigments fade as a hint this might end soon? What if I remember my man laugh?

When I’m slaughtered in Gibbon, I see a flash of a little girl’s ruddy face. She is holding broken soap. She’s stubborn. Maybe she’s what I used to be, the body where I lived. Or maybe she’s who sent me here.

Tonight, I’m young in Jamaica. Mosquitoes frisk the cattle. The property is modest. Our shed smells like guava, cashews and manure. Many of the trees are gimps, but the soil is alert and luxurious. I see much. In the big house, I see the shadows of a bony mama hollering at her child. Slap sounds that follow hardly budge air this fat, but I feel them still. What if I had a bony mama who said all sorts of cruel shit she didn’t mean and never said sorry?  One can only dream.    

The next morning after a bite, I pause to watch two birds go at it. I don’t remember how this used to seem, but I find myself casting a hex so she’ll grind her talons into the gravel a little more, and crane her neck around, beak agape for him. She doesn’t do this. There was a time I considered refraining from the sport under the theory that if I don’t reproduce, I won’t build myself another downy prison for the future and might finally die. But I could never adhere to my insurrections; all remnants of free will won’t drown out my chicken nature.

“Peanut!” Blocking my sun is a squat black belly. It protrudes from an undersized pink shirt that says Kisses in squiggly. She can’t be older than eight. “You Peanut! My Peanut!” She squeals, and scoops me into her shirt.

Her name must be Peanut also. From where I nestle left of her collarbone, I can see a little pink scratch along her eye. Peanut’s tight braids curl upward to meet low branches halfway as she kidnaps me, parading the two of us in an unsteady stomp under some brush and toward the big road. She waits to cross even when there’s many seconds of space between cars, but I am patient. She is running away, and perhaps this is the only detour she knows by heart.

“We are together,” I say. But it comes out too faint. “You are the loveliest.”

I squint my eyes hard and try to become a fluffy rabbit for her. This only makes the colors stronger when I reopen them. Peanut has brought us to the sea.

What if I had a daughter named Peanut who didn’t mind feeding me juicy carrot bits and scratching my little head? What if I had a daughter named Peanut and she killed me with her pink palms like I was a lemon for the cup she brings along on her adventures? I dream of ending up in her stomach.

On white sand are many dead bees. They were the saintly ones—rabbis of the afterlife. Us ancient creatures know these things about each other, and I’ve had time to consider it. Their breed of soul is dwindling. They are not falling in battle, or in the name of their queen. They don’t panic in their last moments. They sit and sigh until impotent as grain. I suppose it’s a shame we’re losing them, but at least they’re set... What if I had been better? What if I were that free?

Peanut picks one of them up but it doesn’t make her sad. This is something we share—she the child, I the condemned. She offers it to me and I eat it to be polite. “Kisses,” I say.

We wade into the ocean. She seems uncertain about the waves, but I am not. I see the water for what it is: forearms and pelvises lathering over each other in an aquamarine heap. “Kisses,” I repeat. And maybe she hears me this time, because she can swim now, and she’s strong. And she lets go of my breast. But I cannot swim.

My breath ceases; I sink. I have no memories except for her heels becoming smaller, kicking above as the seconds of my death pass again. I’m not a rabbit. Her old man will not have my head. I am the warmest thing, and it’s the only way to live.