Chicken Shack

I.

 

Outside of it, bales were lined

in solemn procession

like pale tombs among waves

of milkweeds and skeletal dandelions,

their stems bowing beneath a soft wind,

their petals snaring on barbed wire.

 

I was a trespasser as I ran

through pastures pocked

with sticker burrs and stale cow shit.

The cows no longer grazed there,

as if they—smelling something metallic

in the air—sensed danger

and turned their backs

against its storm.

 

II.

 

From the road,

the chicken shack looked abandoned,

the sagging tin-roofed shell

a bony wreck beneath its rust,

though to me it was the soft down

of a hen’s wing I imagined myself

hiding under.

 

Only it wasn’t. 

There was evidence of chickens

having lived in mesh cages

and having died, strung up

on crude copper-wired hangers

jutting from the wall, suspended

above yellowed feathers and dull-iron

tools strewn about—

and the rust coated everything

like dried blood.

 

III.

 

I was afraid of the rats,

rats that sucked the eggshells dry,

afraid of the serpent’s translucent slough

coiling around their fragile carcasses,

and how those shells and skin reflected an eerie

glow in the purple shade that chased me off

as if I were the unwanted ghost

amid all this death.

 

I remember spending the night

on a curled bale cradled by the itchy hay

and staring at the sky,

oceanic darkness pooling itself outward,

deeper than anything on earth,

and how my heart felt stretched

like a wishbone, and—ah!—

how it seemed to pop

as the wish flew up, connecting the stars,

while the chicken shack loomed behind me

threatening to collapse.