Grandmother Courts Grandfather with a Chicken

My chicken wasn’t like your chicken.

          The cafeteria chef taught me 

the right way to coax it out

          of the slaughterhouse, before

he stewed and salted it, before

         he cooked it again

for the canteen. I’m not saying

          I don’t like the chicken here.  

The chicken here is deep-

          fried and breaded, destined         

for stomachs and conveyer belts, 

          eaten in slices as a child’s 

lunch meat. The chicken here 

          is found fresh or frozen

behind grocery store glass,    

          seasoned or conscious 

about its health benefits.

          I didn’t know chicken could be 

so much until I moved here. 

          Poached chicken, broiled chicken,

rotisserie chicken, Kentucky chicken. 

          And so many parts too.

Chicken nugget, chicken wing,

          chicken thigh, chicken breast.

But have you ever seen one alive? 

          Clutched one by its feathers

and looked it in the eye? 

           Asked it to behave, told it

Today’s the day he falls in love

            with me. No? I didn’t think so.

All the chickens here are dead.


Michelle Tong is a medical student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her poems appear in the Margins, Glass, and JAMA, among others, and she reads for the Bellevue Literary Review. Last summer, she won first prize in the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards and received a fellowship from Brooklyn Poets. She teaches poetry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lives in New York.