Ekphrastic Challenge 12

posted in: Ekphrastic Writing | 2

Dabola, Guinea, West Africa, by Kris Fricke







The day was sultry, and the last class of the day was lethargic.

‘Did you know,’ Mr Peck, their history teacher, said in a last throw of the dice to get their interest, ‘that William the Conqueror invented beach volleyball for something to do before the Battle of Hastings?’

Eyes flickered in disbelieving looks.

‘It’s true,’ Mr Peck said. ‘History isn’t as dry as you think it is.’

Children stirred, the heat almost forgotten.

‘Take the beginnings of World War I. I’ll bet you didn’t know it started with chickens.’

Laughter punctuated the air. ‘Pull the other one,’ a voice shot from the back. Mr Peck paused, staring at the unbeliever.

‘How then?’ the non-believer added.

‘Long version short?’ asked Mr Peck before continuing. ‘They were Bosnian chickens and demanded to be free–as in free-range.’

The dissenter snorted.

‘The chook leading the charge was a large Leghorn rooster called Gavrilo Princip. Look his name up.’

‘Chicken shit!’ the disbeliever called. General laughter followed.

‘Because it’s hot, I’ll disregard your egggnorance,’ Mr Peck punned.

Students groaned.

‘It does sounds feather-brained, I know …’ he added.

There was a larger, longer groan.

‘… but as the Latin scholars once said, sit lectorem decernere (let the reader–in this case, that’s you–decide). But imagine admitting you couldn’t control your chickens. Worse, confessing how they went wild?’

‘Well …’

‘Anyway, Princip belonged to a group of chickens called the Black Hand …’

‘Chickens don’t have hands …’

‘True but it’s what they called themselves. The Black Feathers?’

The groans told him at least they were paying attention.

‘There were only a few of them but it’s amazing what chickens can do when the set their minds to it. Their motto became, You may take our lives and eat us, but you’ll never take our freedom. Mel Gibson pinched that line for Braveheart.’

Groaning reached fever pitch.

Mr Peck ignored it. ‘Anyway, Princip and his mates ambushed the farmer, a fellow name Franz Ferdinand. Don’t believe that stuff about him being an Archduke. He was a chicken farmer. One morning on his way to market with his wife Sofia and cages of chickens, Princip and his mates ambushed them in the street and …’

‘Pecked them to death?’ the sceptic at the back called out to general laughter.

‘Eggsactly,’ Mr Peck quipped again to yet another groan. ‘Sorry about that.’ He didn’t look like it. ‘But the other famers knew a threat when they saw it. They declared war on all chickens and convinced all their mates in nearby towns to join in. As you can imagine, things got out of control until …’

The bell rang for the end of the lesson. Everyone sounded relieved as they packed up and shuffled out.

The Doubting Thomas from the back paused at the door. ‘Best history class,’ he said. ‘A good yolk.’ He winked, turned and left, chuckling.

To Mr Peck, he sounded much like a chicken laying an egg.



Is this the African version of Geococcyx californianus
The road runner of Loony Tunes fame
Or is it simply le coq gaulois
The symbol of France
Standing stately poised proudly
In the centre of a Dabola Street
Is there a coyote anywhere nearby?

Since French is the language of Guinea
And they play soccer there
You’d think they might
Like the mother country’s team
Sport a coq on their jersey
But no, the symbol is an elephant
Bad guess!

So, this cockerel, oblivious of
The surroundings and its dangers
Should be paying more attention
To what might happen
A speeding car, maybe?
Or one of those hungry lads
At the side of the road

We’ll never know



The other councillors were speechless when Jake leapt from his chair onto the meeting table and on all fours began barking like a dog. Jake had once again tired of ceaseless discussions taking council away from its core business of providing and ensuring essential services to ratepayers.  Especially issues brought to council by concerned ratepayers such as the matter of local dog management.  He had been endeavouring to have this matter considered by council for months. Play acting like a dog was one way for him to get their attention and to hear him out.

While frustrating his fellow councillors, Jake was successful in having council approve a set of policies and regulations on dog management in the Shire. He had been known to conduct similar stunts in the past to bring the mostly business orientated councillors back to the issues affecting the local populace.

Not for the first time had Jake’s attention seeking methods made the front page of the local ‘Advertiser’ newspaper just as this had. He once ran around the meeting table clucking like a chicken to get council to focus on rules for keeping suburban chickens.

Jake was disliked by his fellow councillors but well liked by ratepayers for his down to earth approach and the assistance and advocacy he provided on their behalf.  Despite the best efforts of council to ridicule him, the ratepayers, especially the elderly and needy in the community, kept electing him to office.

Apart from his council duties, Jake ran the local post office where he was confronted daily with the issues that concerned ratepayers. In his spare time Jake also helped the elderly and others in need with household and property maintenance and accessing services. He had a good social conscience and a desire to help those less fortunate and his efforts were recognised with numerous community awards.

Not only was Jake respected for his community work, but known also for his use of Australian slang and cockney expressions. To men, ‘G’day old cock’ was his standard greeting as was the attention seeking ‘Hey, sport’. ‘He’s a good cove’ Jake used to describe someone he liked. In describing fellow councillors, he would often refer to them variously as a ‘drongo’ or ‘lot of drongos’, ‘mad as a cut snake, ‘as useless as tits on a bull’ and ‘couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery’. ‘Stone the bloody crows, was common to him when frustration set in as was ‘down the frog and toad’ (road) when asked where he was headed. For after hours contact he would ask locals to ‘call me on the dog and bone’ (telephone). There were countless other terms for which Jake was known.

Jake was a local councillor for 20 years outlasting many mayors, councillors and CEOs. When Jake died in his mid 60s of cancer (‘Jimmy Dancer’) his funeral was attended by hundreds of ratepayers. The sign on his coffin read ‘G’bye Old Cock, we’ll see you round the Jack Horner’(corner).



It is ok to turn your back, to stand tall,
to walk away with pride.
No matter how the outcome may fall,
or what conventional rules you may have defied.

It is ok to turn your back and feel their glare,
let them view the confident swagger.
Let them view the booty with envious stare,
head held high, ignoring the eyes filled with daggers.

It is ok to choose the direction of your path,
even if, by doing so, it ruffles feathers.
Sometimes in life we need to face the aftermath,
To unlock our true self and reveal our treasures.



Henry VIII woke us every morning at dawn. He was a handsome rooster. My sister Sally named him after a king she’d learnt about in history class. ‘A fat king with many wives. It suits him,’ she told us.

We all had our chores. Sally’s job was the washing. The washing machine had a ringer on top. Careful of her fingers, she fed the clean washing through this to squeeze the water out before hanging it. The twins chopped the firewood and took turns to mow the lawns.

The chooks were my job. I didn’t mind feeding them and collecting the eggs but Henry VIII did not like me very much and resented my visits to his hen house. I had to keep an eye out or he would fly at me in fury—wings flapping, pecking, and clawing. He got me by surprise once. I stepped back in fright and slid in some chook poo, falling on my bum. I was covered in the sticky, smelly mess as I rolled away trying to avoid his beak and claws. As I walked back to the house Sally appeared in the laundry doorway.

‘You’re really in the shit now, Bobby,’ she laughed.

When a chicken was needed for the pot I had to separate it from the rest of the flock and get it into a cage. It was the twins job to kill it. Brendan wrung its neck, Brian gutted it, and Sally plucked it. The sight of blood made me feel dizzy and I would be sick. On ‘Killing Day’ I would go for a walk or hide out in the wood shed, depending on the weather.

When Henry VIII grew too old to ‘do his business’, a new rooster with shiny black feathers was bought. Sally named him Romeo. There is only room for one rooster in any hen house so Henry VIII had to go. I headed for the wood shed but the twins had arrived before me. The rooster had put up a good fight. Both boys had war wounds on their arms and faces, courtesy of Henry VIII. The twins had decided to execute him in a manner befitting a king. Brendan held the rooster on the chopping block. Brian lifted the tomahawk.

‘Hey, make sure you don’t get blood on the tail feathers. I want them for a hat I’m making.’ Sally called out, not caring about any possible injury to Brendan’s fingers.

Before I had time to back out of the shed Brian swung the tomahawk and lopped off Henry VIII’s head with one clean blow. Brendan let go of the rooster and its head hit the ground. There was no time for me to be sick. Gushing blood, the headless body ran straight at me. I turned and ran, screaming, toward the house. Behind me I could hear the twins laughing.

Henry VIII haunted my dreams for years and no matter how hungry I was, I never ate chicken again.



‘Why?’ you ask.

Indeed, I’ve been weighing that up for some time.

On the one foot, I’ve heard about newer, greener pastures.

On the other, there’s the young men with cleavers and hunger in their eyes.

Then there’s the crossing itself.

Not easy carrying your progeny and no other assets to speak of.

I’ve heard bad things but what’s a single girl to do?

Put yourself in my position. Penned in or range free?

Maybe damned either way.

Easy for a tourist to pass judgement, take a quick shot set on auto and reboard the bus.

Me, I live here.

Till I don’t.

If you see what I mean.



In the heart of Africa, there was a small town known for its bustling market and vibrant culture. The town was surrounded by lush green forests and rolling hills, but the center of it all was the main road, a long strip of dusty red earth that cut through the heart of the town. It was here where the market was held every day, where vendors sold their wares, and where the people of the town gathered to trade news and gossip.

One day, as the people of the town made their way to the market, they were stopped in their tracks by a rooster standing in the middle of the road. The rooster was a magnificent bird, with bright red feathers and a proud crest. He strutted back and forth, as if he owned the road, and would not let anyone pass.

At first, the townspeople tried to shoo the rooster away, but he refused to move. They tried to go around him, but he would simply block their path and crow loudly, as if to say, “This is my road and you cannot pass!” The townspeople grew frustrated and began to grumble, but the rooster remained steadfast.

As the morning wore on, more and more people gathered around the rooster, wondering what could be done about him. Some suggested catching the bird and cooking him for dinner, while others argued that he was simply lost and needed to be returned to his owner. But no matter what they tried, the rooster would not budge.

Just then, an old man appeared at the edge of the crowd. He was a wise man, known for his knowledge of the ways of the forest and his understanding of the animals that lived there. The townspeople turned to him, hoping he would know what to do about the rooster blocking the road.

The old man approached the rooster and stood before him, looking into his eyes. The rooster looked back, and the two locked gazes for a long moment. Then, to the surprise of everyone present, the rooster suddenly turned and ran off into the forest.

The townspeople cheered and began to make their way to the market once more, but the old man stopped them. “Wait,” he said, “There is a lesson to be learned from this rooster.” The townspeople turned to him, eager to hear what he had to say.

“The rooster stood in the middle of the road because he was searching for his purpose,” the old man explained. “He did not know why he was there, but he knew that he had a role to play. And so he stood his ground, waiting for someone to show him the way.”

The townspeople nodded, understanding the old man’s words. They realized that, like the rooster, they too had a purpose in life, a reason for being. And just as the rooster had found his way, they too would find their own path, with the help of those around them.

And so, the townspeople went on their way, filled with a newfound sense of purpose and determination. And as they walked, they remembered the rooster who had stood in the middle of the road, and they smiled, knowing that they too would find their way, no matter what obstacles they may encounter.





Why do you like being early, Grandma?

The glossy, wet roads are like a mirror reflecting red and green of the traffic lights. The windscreen wipers scrape backwards and forwards. Cars and bicycles weave in and out of my vision. Children in school uniforms and parents with umbrellas bent into the rain, cross the busy roads.

I glance in the rear vision mirror and catch a glimpse of Henry’s innocent five-year face. Fair hair cropped short, firmly plastered down. Green and yellow school uniform neatly pressed.

I’m momentarily caught out.

Why do I need to be early?

I’m not sure how to answer. I’ve not ever given it much thought.

I’m tempted to brush him off with:

It’s just the way I am.

A glib reply, as one might give a child more intent on asking the question than hearing the explanation.

But I realise he is genuinely interested in making sense of his grandmother.

I could tell him; I’d rather be three hours early rather three minutes late. That I’m an A type personality who must be early or at the very least, on time.

I’m a self-righteous earlybird wracked with guilt at the thought of making someone wait for me, of being an inconvenience to others and ruining their plans. How being on time is simply good manners.

That I can’t understand people who are casual about time. Perpetual laggards with a default message on their phones ‘running twenty minutes late.’

I could explain, I like to be prepared, organised, not in a flap. And how as a child growing up on the farm, I worried so much about missing the high school bus, I felt physically sick each morning. Even worse than missing the bus, was the thought of my sprinting down our long driveway to the bus, with our neighbours’ children watching and laughing through the bus windows.

It was enough to ensure I was on time, every time.

None of this.

I simplify my thoughts for Henry.

Well, it’s because I get flustered if I’m running late.

There’s a long pause while he processes this latest information.

Does that mean you get emotional, Grandma?

I smile at his adult choice of words.

Well, yes.

He thinks again, sighs contentedly.

The only time I’m early for school is when you take me, Grandma.

I look for a park, hoping to snatch one close to the school gate, but several cars are queuing for spots there. I drive around the block, pleased to have a few extra minutes with Henry.

I park the car by the back gate of the school. He jumps out, a huge grin on his face, schoolbag hanging off one shoulder.

I wind down the window to say goodbye. He stands close and whispers conspiratorially:

I like being early too, Grandma.

My heart is full of love. He’s an earlybird too.



Why did the chicken cross the road
Because it was the only road in town
Everyone and anything knows
This is the only way to get around
The village streets are dusty and dry
Full of pot holes, rubbish and clay
Odd shaped houses built from brick and mud
But at night these become homes where families stay
All sitting huddled around the fire
Cooking food and brewing tea
A place where conversations flow
Many faces happy with glee
Daybreak comes and it’s time for work
Follow the track down to the riverbed
The donkey plods with its heavy load
While tending hands keep busy overhead
The fruits been picked and gathered up
The wheats been chopped and bundled
The flowers bagged, the garden watered
Now it’s home time, off they trundle
Evening time is for rest and relaxation
The music starts and there’s dance
Another day down in this beautiful town
Now it’s time for laughter, fun and romance


2 Responses

    • admin

      Hi Emma. Why not write a poem or a story in response to this image?
      Geelong Writers.

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