Chicken Feathers and Park Benches

At age six, my cousin became
an animal rights advocate
when she saw mother wring
our chicken's neck for Sunday dinner,
sending it on its John The Baptist run
across the back yard, 
feathers flying behind it
like a sudden snowstorm.

She stopped eating chicken.
Opened their pen to let them escape.
Hid them under the house.
Wrote Santa to rescue them
in his sleigh, come Christmas.

Later, she found her own roost on the streets 
as manic depression spread its wings, 
darkened her sky. 
She was raped twice on park benches, 
traded her body in cold weather
for a few nights in some strange man's 
warm bed.

She lived on a cot in a friend's walk-in closet for a year.

She refused to go home, 
refused to stay with a mother 
who'd abused her while my uncle, 
the minister, sat, 
fingers pyramided in silent prayer 
to a god who was too busy to listen 
to one child's scream.

My cousin would give you her last dollar,
her last cup of coffee, 
probably her soul if you needed it.

The streets can kill you or break you,
but angels tread that pavement, too,
wings hid beneath unwashed clothes,
chicken feathers spinning in circles
around invisible, but well-deserved halos.

Pris Campbell

Source of homeless photo unknown

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