On the Care and Feeding of Your Chicken-Leg Hut
by Rebecca Buchanan
First, a warning:
a chicken-leg hut
can be a temperamental residence,
given to bouts of wanderlust
through ancient forest and modern city alike,
only to suddenly curl up and settle down
in the middle of a sunny meadow
or the middle of a busy intersection.
(Traffic will have to be diverted,
and, when the hut finally decides to move on,
it will leave a mess of pigeon skulls and sticky feathers.)
Second, a warning:
yes, you will be feared and admired,
sought out for your wisdom and power,
but there is a cost.
There is always a cost.
If you are willing to pay it,
this is what you must do:
Find a nest.
This will be a tangle
of bones and gristle and evergreens.
because the eggs will be listening.
Choose an egg. Will it be
polished black and shimmering,
or the blue of summer twilight,
or crimson like a proud rooster’s crown?
Whisper to the egg,
promising to care for it always.
(And remember, a promise made
must be a promise kept.)
Feed the egg your dreams and hopes,
your vitality and youth.
Carve a walking stick
from the bones and evergreens
while you wait.
When the egg finally hatches
the chicken-leg hut will be small,
small enough to curl against your chest
and suckle on your withered breasts.
As it grows, feed it moondogs and infant snakes,
winter shadows and the murmurings of birch trees.
And when it is strong enough,
take up your walking stick
and carve the name
above the front door.
Will it be a name to provoke fear?
Arouse admiration? Or instill determination
in those foolish princes and beautiful maidens?
Walk through the door.
Steady yourself as the chicken-leg hut
rises to its feet, claws scratching at the earth.
Whisper a soothing word or two
and give it a comforting pat
as the hut takes its first steps.
Let it wander as it will,
through storm and under sun,
across mountains and cities.
Continue to feed it.
Your youth and milk will be gone,
so lure new mothers as needed
with promises of peace and quiet.
(Promises made and kept.)
Hang their skulls from the eaves.
Treat your hut to the occasional
foolish prince or beautiful maiden
to its claws sharp
and its windows gleaming.
Befriend the ravens
that roost on the roof,
for they see and hear much,
and have secrets to share.
Do not allow the fire
in the hearth to die out,
because even a chicken-leg hut
will get cold in the winter.
You may decide,
as the whim suits you,
to aid those foolish princes
and beautiful maidens
instead of feeding them
to your chicken-leg hut.
Be sure that it is asleep
when you let them go,
and that you have a ready meal
in their place.
(The hut may still be annoyed with you
for awhile. You will not need the ravens
to tell you that.)
As you wander,
collect knick knacks
to brighten the shelves and walls
of your chicken-leg hut:
dragonflies in spiders’ webs,
storm clouds and winter’s last frost,
birch bark covered in secret writings,
and tiny wooden dolls.
And when it comes time
to pay the cost,
find a grove of evergreens.
Walk out through that door,
pass beneath the name
that you carved so long ago.
Cast aside your walking stick.
The hut will make a nest
of your bones and gristle,
and there lay its eggs,
polished black and shimmering,
and the blue of summer twilight,
and crimson like a proud rooster’s crown.
Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer, and a regular contributor to ev0ke: witchcraft*paganism*lifestyle. She has released several short story and poetry collections, with more on the way. A complete list of her publications can be found on Eternal Haunted Summer.