there are swallows singing that line that I cannot,
outside on the back gate where I used to stand,
poised and ready to run as a six year old,
The Black Chook Gauntlet.
I remember now how I remember then,
that you shouldn’t wait for your fears to gather at the gate,
you should dash out before they get there,
and make for the chook house.
when practiced, I would be pursued by a flap of the black Australorp chickens,
heads low to the ground, eyes wide, crests flamed red-
half flapping, half waddling steamers of death.
mum’s red scrap bucket knocking into my chubby, white legs.
black chooks can run as fast as a six year old.
I would sometimes get into the chook house before my fears,
then I would be stuck inside the lions den.
gripped by talons of childish fear.
as time passed and my fears didn’t,
I learnt to run out the side gate,
cover alternate routes,
scramble with one arm and two chubby, white legs up the thick mesh that circumvents the old chook house,
and then pour the contents out onto the ground some eight feet below.
the chooks of course were never after me,
they wanted only that which was theirs to begin with.
that which even I agreed was theirs.
and for all I cared they could have it, and did.
but fear is fear.
whether you are eight or twenty eight.
it is to be worked with.
it is external and manifested internally,
as the unknown,
as a fight or flight mechanism.
now, as I wake at night,
I feel other black Australorpian shapes in the dark.
I must walk the house as my gauntlet, to the toilet out back.
there is nothing to fear out here.
not even the snakes on the warm pavers.
yet I have semblances of fear.
sometimes they grow into full blown hallucinations that ripple like a medicine dream,
like a journey induced by the unknown itself,
by the Dreaming.
I am not afraid.
I am only scared, bewildered, tired.
scared that if I stay up, I will wake up.
so I retreat to bed, to my tiredness.
if I take the alternate route,
through the side door and down the long verandah of my childhood,
I can make the toilet fine.
but on my return,
I am forced to step out onto the warm steps,
or maybe even the grass,
to look up at the Milky Way that hangs like a great udder of stars over my eyes,
I hear the grinding teeth of the kangaroos in the yard,
the dead ones who return as a totem of family;
who invite me, if I would sit.
but I cannot fight my desire to sleep,
my fear to sit.
back in my bed,
in my parents house,
the place of six generations,
where history happened until the present was a consequence,
I feel roots growing out my of feet,
I feel an iris opening in my head.
I try relaxing,
but a year of travelling,
and a week of Sydney’s bile,
has me tense,
has me wary.
there is nothing to fear out here.
there never was.
I contemplate how I came to be here.
or another’s decision?
the former is undoubted,
the latter seems less likely in consideration.
what to do with this knowledge?
‘don’t let your fears gather at the gate’.
I feel like an eight year old again,
my dreams of horses and ghouls
waking me in the night,
that I may walk the gauntlet of a dream,
to piss in a toilet of drought.
I work with my fears,
I have them teach me,
that they are just chickens,
and I am just a man.
Benjamin W Wild © copyright 2008
One thought on “~ THE GAUNTLET ~”
I am just in from sinking- floating deep hot bath. a long desired indulgence, resulting from an overflowing tank after far too much dry. Anyway, I stumble across this poem,which again resonates with me. Primarily because I too had the childhood fear of ‘haunted hens’ & also as my son when very small was a victim of a protective rooster, which struck with fierce talons into his soft tender toddler wrist. I had to scoop up my poor babe from the straw pen floor, he had passed out , limp & trickling blood. Touché Rooster round one. Never to make round two!
But I also love this work because I have just laid naked under the shimmering stars, seriously thinking of such childhood fears…fears created in imagination, … I had only just mused at how once the sounds of wombats, possums and gliders – could cause me such a strong instinctive reaction of not only flight or fight for me- but the lesser known third option. to literally freeze. thank god that has mostly passed.
So your words are indeed a serendipitous treat. … oh & ps (small trivial typo alert? ‘I feel roots growing out my of feet’)? Ciao for now , I have literally been ‘BEnWILDered’ , thankyou again for sharing your story with my coincidental bliss…