Wild Roosters

by Jane Hall

Roosters roam the island of Kauai
feral descendants of red jungle fowl
that rode outriggers from the Marquesas,
perfect posture, each step a performance,
the epitome of the word cocky.
Feathers glazed copper and teal and inky black,
vulgar beauty of iridescence, roosters
roosters, roosters around the dumpsters,
on the tennis courts, and in the vacant lot
behind the shave ice stand.

A flock of boys, bronzed and sinewy
gathers at sunset to leap off the lava-rock ledge
down the beach from the hotel. They are fourteen,
maybe fifteen, protruding chests in green-gold
medals dressed, hair gelled to a crest,
trunks pulled low by the Pacific’s powerful hands.

My husband and I, tourists here,
try to figure out the rules of their game,
what makes a good leap, in a stunt
that seems as much style as athleticism.
Peers applaud and we do too
as they cartwheel off the cliff,
doing Bruce Lee imitations in midair
or crowing in flight.

From their beaks there rise the uncontrolled,
traditional cries, deep, primeval sounds,
not the treble throat crowing of a barnyard bird,
but four sonorous ancestral syllables,
that give those boys with lower voices
an advantage, as they fly into the sea
alive with youthful stupidity
and ageless abandon.

(Italicized words from “Roosters” by Elizabeth Bishop.)


Jane Hall is a student in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in Creative Writing at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She writes in all genres about insights that arise from the intersection of cultures. Her writing is inspired by work and travel in other parts of the world, including Hawai´i and Southeast Asia.

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