the Tragedy of Chicken-hood

selective focus photography of white chicken
At a restaurant,
it’s not uncommon to be served
an entire chicken thigh with the poor little wing
still attached. To remind you it was once a bird?
I’d rather not think about that.

I was cooking chicken parmesan
the night I decided to go vegan—
               a stint that lasted all of two years,
               the longest I’ve gone without yogurt.

There was a production line
setup and everything;
wooden cutting board,
steel meat-tenderizer,
whipped egg-milk slurry in a wide-bottomed bowl,
large plate of seasoned breadcrumbs,
and an empty dish at the end for the chicken, once dressed.

I remember my finger
piercing the plastic wrapping—the cold,
slick sliminess that followed when I took the fleshy breast
and slapped it on the counter. (station one)

I beat the meat
so good, swinging the metal mallet through the air
like I was performing a sweet ballet—the squishy bang
of fangs on the rawness, keeping tempo ‘til soft.

But dipping the mother chicken
in pulverized embryo (station two)
changed me, as I watched it drip
from the chunk of bird I held
suspended in the air.

I’d made this meal a hundred times
but never before considered
egg as embryo, meat as mother—
a play on words, forming a bond
between two things, once separate.

Like wings on a chicken thigh,
my humanity was now attached;
a common thread
that tied me to chicken-hood
where empathy hung, abundant—
warm and ready to be worn
like shirts left in the sun to dry.

An epiphany. (station three)

- Paige Ryan