All in by Hilary Varner

by Hilary Varner

          running up, down

remembering, forgetting my

phone, a sweater in case when

already two minutes late I

          pause with one foot

over the threshold

glance at the back door still

open and take in

          through the shut, left-side

blinds, something white,

waist-high amid the ducks chipmunks

squirrels stuffing in

          the patio’s thrown, bird food—

child in white shirt

bent over, feeding critters too?

I dash and peer

          and the morning

stills: A tremendous


rooster is eating sunflower

          seeds on my back porch

with his florid wattle and comb

bulging almost indecently

full. At his feet, a rabbit

          keeps munching, but he

spots me staring

and stands up, two-and-a half-feet tall,

his head going back

          and forth (like someone

told him it should),

as his yellow pencil legs

and six hotdog toes staccato

          up and down

next to our grill

where we cooked

his many, packaged wives

          before he turns and

takes off in fearless

strides around the hedge

with his tail feathers,

          too fluffy for such

a ravishing male, twitching

back.  How can I not,

even in heels, open the back door


scatter the fur there to follow? He

glances back, struts

past the neighbor’s purple flowers

          and I think, Roosters

don’t fly, remember my phone

in my hand while he watches

and must understand

          because he really

runs now, reaching

with those crazed legs

that are too cartoon

          to support such white weight,

let him soar between bounds,

or arc around the last row house and

out of the shade

          —all lit

engorged red, lifted white

and skinny bursting yellow—

with such grace

          I feel we should

watch roosters race

instead of horses—

as he leaps to the left

          out of sight.

He was never afraid. His running was

more like showing off or

like he was leading me

          into the sun

and to his last place

in the wide, hot grass

to stand, pondering his point

          while insisting

and giggling on the phone

that there was a huge, white, gorgeous


          just jogging

behind our houses.

I knew then he was laughing

back, but remembered that

          to appear

as a white animal

to only one woman

is something

          gods used to do—

that thank god his visit

did not leave me

knocked out and

          up as such visits

tend to, but still it struck me

as an impossible wink, meant

just for me, something I had

          to run after, to see,

before I was so late for this lunch

with my sisters, the one where I whisper

I am getting married tomorrow.


Hilary Varner received her MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her poetry has appeared in The Collagist, The Fem, Juked, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband, three kids, and a rabbit, in Plainfield, IL, where she freelance edits for money and bakes good things for joy.