Chicken Farming in the Pelican State


It’s not like we can choose what spears us through the heart. What lone cedar strikes us as the clouds burn off at noon. What pecan light. What clue as to how a person lives or dies—clew like the ball of yarn at the heart of the maze. Follow and you will escape the bull-headed man. My father’s father owned the second largest chicken farm in the state of Louisiana. A million layers, three million broilers, sacrificed every three months. My father’s father had a heart attack at the Sunday breakfast table, eggs on the plate before him, my uncle upstairs, my father enlisted in the army. Three months earlier, he underwent triple bypass surgery. Three years earlier, he sold the lion’s share of his farm to a leopard salesman with good business sense. My father said it broke his heart. I never expected a sentimental explanation, but nicknames for the state of Louisiana include Sugar State and Sportsman’s Paradise. Child of the Mississippi. My father said, when he was a child, his father always left an extra egg on his plate, and half a slice of toast, for my father to eat.

HANNAH VANDERHART lives in Durham, NC. She has her MFA from George Mason University, and is currently at Duke University writing her dissertation on gender and collaboration poetics in the seventeenth century. She has poems and reviews recently published and forthcoming at The McNeese Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, The Greensboro Review, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly and Poetry Northwest .