Sabina, and the chain of friendship

Sabina sits holding a hen looking more 
like a hen than the hen looks. 
It is her face, lifted up, the way 
hens lift up their faces, wary,
or the way they eye each other up
a little lofty, a little haughty.
Sabina has a theory about loyalty: 
talking behind their backs
is only disloyal down the chain:
you don't criticise your best friend 
to a new friend but you can criticise 
a good friend to your best friend or 
the new friend to a better friend.
Boyfriends gradually get worked up
the chain till, when you can criticise
your best friend to them, but 
not them to your best friend, that's
how you know it is time to marry them. 
The dream that you are walking over glass 
to reach the other man?
You don't tell that to anyone.

Anna Jackson has published five collections with Auckland University Press, most recently Thicket in 2011. A new collection, I, Clodia will be coming out from AUP in November 2014. Anna lives in Island Bay, Wellington, and teaches in the English department at Victoria University.

Jackson comments: ‘I have four hens I am very fond of. For more on my hens (an ode!) you can go down to the comments on the alexandrine page of Sonia Johnson’s very wonderful “A year in forms” blog. I followed the example of Shelley’s “Ode to a Skylark”, and used the alexandrine for the last line of each stanza. “Sabina, and the chain of friendship” is a rather more prosaic poem, conveying a theory about friendship I hope is useful. But, as I said in another poem once, a theory is not a poem! So, I added hens.’

Poem source details >



‘To my hen-flock’ by Anna Jackson at Sonia Johnson's blog A Formal Year (see comments section)
New Zealand Book Council writer file