Richard Wilbur

A Black November Turkey
to A.M. and A.M.

    Nine white chickens come
    With haunchy walk and heads
Jabbing among the chips, the chaff, the stones
       And the cornhusk-shreds,

     And bit by bit infringe
     A pond of dusty light,
Spectral in shadow until they bobbingly one
       By one ignite.

     Neither pale nor bright,
     The turkey-cock parades
Through radiant squalors, darkly auspicious as
        The ace of spades,

     Himself his own cortége
     And puffed with the pomp of death,
Rehearsing over and over with strangled râle
        His latest breath.

     The vast black body floats
     Above the crossing knees
As a cloud over thrashed branches, a calm ship
         Over choppy seas,

     Shuddering its fan and feathers
     In fine soft clashes
With the cold sound that the wind makes, fondling

     The pale-blue bony head
     Set on its shepherd’s-crook
Like a saint’s death-mask, turns a vague, superb
        And timeless look

     Upon these clocking hens
     And the cocks that one by one,
Dawn after mortal dawn with vulgar joy
        Acclaim the sun.