Kaddish for Frank Perdue



A benefit of rarely being able to fly from the A Point to the B Point these days is that upon each flight one can borrow or steal more of the small bags (some almost waxed) that are provided in case of immediate need to vomit.

I have been doing this (collecting, not the other, I have a stern stomach) for a number of years with the intention of making a painting which incorporates these bags in some apposite or even witty way. I save shopping lists for the same purpose.

Upon returning from a flight I untuck any bags I have hidden away and put them in a large plastic box. Many of them have other found objects or ideas, mementos, inside also. And today, by chance (as opposed to all the many other previous days), I am sorting the bags by color (mostly white in variation, but some blue also, and two yellow; Swedish?).

While doing so I came across a single sheet of (lined) paper, torn from a standard exercise book. The writing on it is not my own and until the precise moment of its discovery I had not read the poem (or collection of short lines resembling a poem) written upon it.

Nor did I know who Mister Perdue was, although it is true that I have heard of both the brand of commercial chicken (as opposed to amateur chicken) and the university in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The fact that this poem was either lost or hidden within this bag and that the French word for a thing lost or hidden is perdu is also now on my mind. If it was lost or hidden there, which -on reflection- it must have been (either one or the other), the object itself becomes an interesting artwork in and of itself.

There is no signature or name appended to it. I do not feel confident I will ever find out who the artist/poet is, unless it was put there for me alone to discover by a person who had a plan within which the finding was but a single part. I hope very much so.

It is dated April 1st, 2005, the day after Mister Perdue died. According to my diary that day (almost seven years ago already) I took an afternoon flight from Atlanta to New York, I do not remember what I ate (nor are there notes regarding this).

Kaddish for Frank Perdue

The great beast is gone
the goat of all our shadows
casts his grey lot no more.

His ashes far out-weighing
the innumerable tons of fowl
already long forgotten, digested

by all and some, but not us;
the great chicken nation
who’s nightmare now may begin anew

under the drench of other feathers.
Of all jokes from the first
we have been the butt

the chicken, the road
and now like him
that great final crossing.

We lack little in ourselves
see the confidence of any cock
strutting towards death.

See us running, headless
man’s metaphor, our future.
See the peasant woman

rough-handed, bruise-hearted
babushka of the perennial pogrom.
We pray to the Popes of reason

prayers of egg teeth written on blood
chicken-scratched into the air
asking simply to know why us?

Why are we the unchosen, cast out, derided?
Chicken Little you notice
not Chicken Strop or Chicken Courageous

but instead always more paltry poultry
always Jewish penicillin
and bred for the bone.

And we are afraid, chicken
and have every right to be
but we’re angry also

if you’d only ever notice
Running headlong towards our fate
unable to pull back at the last

roasted and boiled until
even our heroes are kept well caged
counting for corn down in Chinatown.

How many of our children
have you fried unborn?
Over-easy maybe, but only for you.