Sabina, and the Chain of Friendship

Anna Jackson Click to read more...

Anna Jackson’s most recent collection of poetry, Thicket, was published by Auckland University Press in 2011.  She lives in Island Bay on Wellington’s wild south coast and lectures in the English department at Victoria University of Wellington.

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.

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Discussion

4 Responses to Sabina, and the Chain of Friendship

  1. Chris says:

    The hen imagery is strangely appropriate for the poem. I like the concept of the friendship chain, or that it is ok to gossip/complain based upon status or value – it is probably true, but most people do not realize it unconsciously happens.

  2. Molly Ortiz says:

    Like Chris mentioned, the hen imagery is effective. I associated squaking chickens with gossip, so to me it is logical, yet also refreshing. I could very much relate to the “down the chain” concept that is presented here. I found the diction to be charmingly simple and treatment of the subject insightful. The dark turn at the end provided a surprising, powerful close.

  3. Annie says:

    One of the many things I like about this poem is the way it is both about a chain and, as the line lengths grow and shorten, it looks like a chain. It even sounds like a chain: some lines are enjambed while others are end-stopped, giving this poem a chatty tone that correlates to the theme of women gossiping, and to the image of hens pecking. I also appreciate how it articulates the implied social structure that goes along with this gossip, but the poem also has a surprising twist at the end with the implication that actual disloyalty or genuinely gossip-worthy material should be kept silent.

  4. Madeline Thorpe says:

    When I first read the poem I found the hen imagery to be startling and somewhat off-puting. However, I think it is adds a unique and effective layer of complexity to the poem. The syntax and structure of the lines also relates to the nature of “gossip.” The lines appear to run on and sound conversational. This concept of loyalty also seems fragile, personal, and sacred. Just as the “glass” imagery suggests, it is easily shattered. The final lines, “The dream that you are walking over glass/to reach the other man/You don’t tell that to anyone,” reinforce that fragility.

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