Sometimes the season changed in the telling,
sometimes the state, but it was always during
the Depression, and he was alone in the boxcar,
the train stalled beneath a sky wider
than any he'd seen so far, the fields of grass
wider than the sky. He'd been curious
to see if things were as bad somewhere else
as they were at home. They were - and worse,
he said, places with no trees, no water.
He hadn't eaten all day, all week, his hunger
hard-fixed, doubled, gleaming as the rails. A lone
house broke the sharp horizon, the train dreaming
beneath him, so he climbed down, walked out,
the grass parting at his knees. The windows
were open, curtainless, and the screen door,
unlatched, moved to open, too, when he knocked.
He could see in all the way through to the kitchen -
and he smelled before he saw the lidded
pot on the stove, the steam escaping. Her clothes
moved on the line for all reply, the sheets,
a slip, one dress, washed thin, worn to translucence;
through it he could see what he mistook for fields
of roses until a crow flew in with the wind -
sudden, fleeting seam. By the time he got back to the train,
he'd guessed already what he'd taken - pot
and all - a hen, an old one that had quit
laying, he was sure, or she wouldn't have killed it.
The train began to move then, her house falling
away from him. The story ended with the meat
not quite done, but, believe him, he ate it
all, white and dark, back, breast, legs, and thighs,
strewing the still-warm bones behind him for miles.