For Charles Patterson
Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz
Only Sunday strollers and bicycle riders will notice
the strange facility concealed among vines and fields —
a long barracks surrounded by barbed wire, a guard stationed
at the electric gate.
It’s late. The second night watch.
The villagers sleep. Only a few small foxes
and nocturnal birds to witness the sight.
The lord of the eggs rechecks the voltage
in the electrified fence.
He directs the trucks filled with cages,
hurrying the Thai workers
discharged to load the sick and the old
squeezed to lay all they can.
Hard to say when they become fowl.
This poem is not about chickens
pecking in the troughs, coxcombs trembling in light
which is neither day nor night
or birds piled one on top of another, their necks
twisting through the bars
to gasp the feathery sparks
in egg-white moonlight.
And even if it is, it doesn’t fly in the face
of the people who pass through the gate
to the factory store in the morning
under the cheery ‘Hatchery House’ sign
with the drawing of a plump brooder,
buying extra large eggs
nicely arranged in a carton.