I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.
Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.
I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out
Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn,
I have entered
The hen house.
This is one of the more remarkable of Mary's poems. I have used it in sermons on the human-nonhuman relationship, articles on avian welfare, lectures on ethics, and autobiographical memoir snippets about the numbers of birds and animals that have died at my hands. Life is full of hard decisions that contribute harm to those around us. We evolved through the doors opened by death and suffering - doors to hen houses, crazy houses, poor houses, White Houses, and earthquaked houses of rubble.
Yet when I read this poem this morning, I have a sense of lightness, near liberation. Where does this come from? In answer, I think of one the questions addressed in one of my favorite movies, The Thin Red Line. The hero looks at a parrot chick dying on the ground that had been bombed out of a tree on a tropical island during WW II, and he says, "One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain. That death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it."
So, the glory today is in facing reality. The answer is full acceptance. It is only the questions that are mutable and our minds that turn from the unbearable brightness of living.
What animals or people are harmed by your choices? How do you reconcile this?