Original poem reprinted online here: "The Hen Swallows a Worm or Slug" by A. V. Christie
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: A. V. Christie
The very first word I circled and labeled, "hen and speaker." There's a comparative metaphor going to be explored in the first stanza. Where the poem goes after describing the metaphor will be explored in the second stanza. I gleamed this knowledge from the first word.
Does that mean all poems like this that start out with "we" turn out like this. Probably not, but the majority bringing in an item in the subject and then starting off with "we," alerts my metaphor senses.
And as the poem starts the action of scratching is compared. "she kicks off / in a fan behind her. I use a stick / to dig." The action of uncovering has a heavy handed connotation for discovery, but what they both find are pretty moot "roots" and "a slug." This is something normal, and yet there's a quantifier to this discovery, "how complicated she is and how resigned." Past me wrote, "resigned -- loaded and foreshadows theme in the poem." And yes, the poem goes towards the sense of resignation.
But first the speaker goes in depth about how the description of how the hen eats the writhing worm, "Then the long slick going / down. It fills the throat, like all that's swallowed." Past me wrote, force fed something disgusting to speaker but way of life to hen." That's past me reaching for the metaphor, to try to understand why there's so much description about eating this worm. But look at the simile, "like all that's swallowed." The ambiguous usage of "all" will come back into play with this poem.
In the second stanza, there is a focus of finding more -- more scratching to find, "grubs" that are "larger / than pale yellow larvae I prize from inside chestnuts." The returning back to the speaker's perspective foreshadows that the metaphor between the hen and the speaker will go back to the speaker, but there's a hard turn.
[...] Nevertheless I am
repulsed by my husband's embrace. I turn
now from his thick belly, breasts, his interests.
A body I had clambered over, loved.
Note that the focus is on a relationship and how the hen (the speaker) and the husband (the slug/worm) are viewed more in the physical light. How the speaker keeps digging to find the mundane that she has to swallow. Furthermore, the execution of this idea has a sexual duality "all that's swallowed." Yes, this may seem gross, but the poem works on the line of metaphor and comparison, but, what is left ambiguous is left to the imagination.
But there's directness with the last lines, "I cover myself. / Another sticky truth dug up / that I must re-bury--" I find these lines too on the nose like he speaker has to announce this is how to read the metaphor -- yup -- this is my truth.
Past me wrote "[the speaker] takes on the attributes of the hen the speaker constructs for what purpose? The focus is on the speakers disgust and how she has to construct her own reasoning to justify her feeling." And I think this idea is the core of comparative metaphors. That the speaker will, eventually, construct similarities and differences, but for what purpose? Here, I feel the speaker is trying to express the mundane, but at what ambiguous and one sided cost?