Poplarville 2005
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Saturday, 12 January 2013 11:09

The roof to the chicken house is caved in from Katrina, like aluminum foil covering yesterday’s casserole dish, sagging into the half-empty space once filled with layers of sustenance. I was three, climbing over the burly Oak roots in front of the door to the chicken house, clutching Momo's wispy cotton apron that hung from her waist, keeping an eye out for rambunctious roosters.

Inside the chicken-house was dark and cool and smelled of feathers and chicken shit. Following my great-grandmother's lead, I'd reach up into the nesting box and feel for an egg, warm and new. “Gentle”, as I’d been instructed, my small, clumsy hands eagerly deposited the eggs into my red, plastic-coated wire basket I’d hung from my arm. In the covered area on the backside of the chicken house, now filled with Pa Pa's tractor, bush-hog, broken pieces of wood, plastic bottles, gasoline cans, tools and other sorts of barn junk, baby chicks in their mesh cages grew under warm lamps, jumping in and out of pans of soiled water and mash, “cheep cheep”. The open field in between the pasture and the garden was the chicken yard for Memo and Momo's some 20 chickens and roosters who scared me worse than a mean horse. In the yard by the house, separated from the chicken yard with a barbed wire fence and gate, by an ivy-wrapped cherry tree, Memo sat with her skinny, blue-veined legs crossed, elbow resting on her top knee, with a smoking cigarette held inches from her rosy lips. Her steaming coffee sat on the tree stump, a makeshift table for the scrabble game, each serving to wake her from her 3 hour “Memo” nap, as her grandkids came to call them, and their mothers hoped they'd emulate. For a while, she’d still look sleepy-eyed as she slowly sipped her hot coffee through pursed lips and searched for words. The Mississippi breeze blew through the scrabble game, dancing Memo's smoke into my own nostrils, and gently moving the swing. The pasture rested still and quiet, sloping downhill toward the pine woods. “Fireweed,” my cousin Cedar's brown-spotted horse grazed, and years before a few cows and other horses roamed and kept the grass short. Katrina ripped the cherry tree in half. Local county workers removed the remaining stump and left it lying in the yard by the garden, like the skeletal remains of a once-great beast. The ivy that wrapped the cherry tree, the swing that hung from it, and Memo and Momo have since slipped away. What remains is a wide and shallow basin of red, Mississippi dirt. “When it rains”, Pa Pa joked, “you can swim in the hole.” He’s still waiting for the county to fill it. He has removed most of the debris from the pasture and fallen pines at the tree line. “A little bit every day.” Strangely, fourteen slender pecan trees survived out in the pasture, and stand like toothpicks on a cake. The November grass is now dry and crackly, ready to jump into flame at any chance. The pines that acted as sound barriers in between highway 59 and the western portion of Pa Pa's ten acres, stand snapped in half like matchsticks, letting in the sounds and sights of speeding cars. ---



Poplarville Chicken House