By Kerry Hennigan
a review with extracts from “The Chicken Chronicles” by Alice Walker

81fjbntPzJLPublished in 2011, The Chicken Chronicles is a collection of Alice Walker’s blog entries composed of musings on and to her “darling girls” – Gertrude Stein, Hortensia, Babe, Agnes of God, Glorious and other seemingly unfowl-like individuals.  But the “girls” are indeed fowls: Ms Walker’s chickens in fact and Walker herself is their “Mommy” who sits with them, cradles them and dotes on them.  This book is the result – a meditation on chickens, life, love and everything – including Michael Jackson.

I kept a clipping of an Australian Women’s Weekly review (July 2011) of The Chicken Chronicles when it first came out, but it took me a few years to actually think to borrow the book from the library to find out what Ms Walker had to say about Michael.  And it turns out to be rather wonderful.

It begins on page 81, with the final paragraph of chapter 17, called “Leaving You”, in which she writes:

“Sitting with Gertrude Stein made Mommy think of Glorious, and how she was lost.  And the loss of Glorious would always be connected to the loss of Michael Jackson, whom Mommy always called in her mind: St. Michael.

18

St Michael
[Edited extract]

Dear girls,

The week that Michael Jackson died, Mommy was in a state of shock.  She could do nothing, really, but come sit with you.  Or with her human sweetheart, or with the other “children”; the dog, Miles, and the cat, Surprise.  Spending time with you was especially comforting, and she sat some part of each day with one or the other of you on her lap.  She also became even more obsessed with your freedom.  How to protect you from predators and how to keep you safe if indeed you wandered beyond the enclosed confines of your house and yard.  What pained her so much about the loss of Michael was the loss of his own innocence, seeing it offered to adoring fans who did not have a clue, many of them, how precious was the gift they were consuming.  Because to Mommy, looking at a photo of the young Michael, when he was bursting with love of life and the joy of giving himself to others in song, he was a special being, sent to us for a special reason.  It seemed to her almost everyone forgot to keep wanting to know: what was that reason?…

I had dragged my meditation camping chair that folds out of storage and we were sitting in it together underneath the windmill.  I think this was the day of Michael’s memorial or perhaps the day after it.  What can one do at such times?  I think: Hold something that is alive.  Breathe with it.  Feel its heart.  Offer yours.  What else is there?

However, I remembered I had left a burner on up the hill in the kitchen and decided to put Glorious down and go up to turn it off.  I did this.  When I returned, she was gone.

Just like that…

And then, in my sadness to lose Michael and Glorious in the same week, I realised there is no reliable protection we can guarantee for another being, as much as we would like to do so.  Freedom is a big risk, as is loving.  Michael and Glorious are perhaps showing us by their lives and deaths what they came onto the planet to let us know: that each day is to be cherished, each moment of closeness with another deeply appreciated, each memory of innocence treasured, valued and passed on.

Mommies can’t be everywhere.  Only Nature can be everywhere.

It has its ways.

19

St Michael,
Lover of Animals and Children

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THAT YOU OFFERED
your light
while you were
too young
to comprehend
our darkness:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

8423457_origThat you were
injured in spirit
while still
a child
& that you
presented your
joy
regardless
of hurt:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That you knew
you were love
loving itself
in those you
adored:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That exhausted
from over-giving
you lost
your energy
to protect
your gift:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That your arrows
were scalpels
turned against
blameless
flesh:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That your heart
refused
work
no slave
on the plantation
of fame
could accomplish
in fifty
venues:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That you loved
the simple
vulnerable beings
of this earth:
the trees
the children
& the animals:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That in your unique
loneliness
you thought
it best
to
erase
yourself:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That in your reading
of us
in our bondage
you sought
to
offer what
we seemed to desire:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That the Self
is
already
perfect
with no need
to be
redefined:

We promise, St Michael
To learn
From you.

That to be wealthy
in everything
but freedom
& joy
is to be poor
beyond
bearing:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

That we are
as we are
splendid
to all who
love us
including
ourselves:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

&
we thank you.

That you left us
abruptly
to ponder
these things:

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

& by
our learning
of so much truth
that we have avoided
for so long
& to our
decline
may we repay you
– a very small offering –
for your indescribable
even unimaginable
suffering
from which
we may –
awakening
to our own beauty –
benefit.

We promise, St. Michael
to learn from you.

And we thank you.”

Edited extracts from The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2011.

This review was originally published as on Facebook on 23 March 2015 at:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/kerry-hennigan/we-promise-st-michael-to-learn-from-you-extracts-from-alice-walker-on-michael-ja/868709653187219

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