Charlie Wolf used to whittle skinning knives
and swords from empty apple crates in winter.
He carved out blades I knew would never break,
true blades I knew instead would slice right through
any weed I chose to make a running deer
or any Rhode Island Red I chose to see
as enemy of God and man. Each old hen
knew my whoop meant feathers lost or worse
and squawked accordingly. Old Charlie used
to say that's why we got so many eggs
double-yolked--"scared the stuff right out of them
with that sword and that wild-eyed Choctaw yell."
Every sword I ever had before Charlie
drowned drunk on a coon hunt on the Arkansas
smelled of apples. Streaking round the barnyard
junk like a bullsnake after chicks, I breathed
pure Christmas before each ambush of red hens,
the white pine sword gleaming between my teeth.