LIST OF GREAT MIDWESTERN SORROWS
Tuned to tidal shimmer of cottonwood leaves, tuned to the drop of the hickory nut onto car roof, tuned to dogwood spitting tiny white petals and painting flowerbed into blank canvas.
Over-caffeinated highway drive, eyes glued to interstate, mechanical land folding over into origami apocalypse. White knuckles with GPS solidarity, with atlas solidarity, with lost mother solidarity, clutching babies to chests in ditches and waiting for the tornado to pass, sitting on porch swings and watching the floodwaters rising solidarity. Old-country church lessons. Abandoned schoolhouse lessons. Classic car engine song, lessons in the gearshift. The broken earth where once stood windbreak trees, hiding foxes during thunderstorm - these lessons kill me. Blackberry stained palms like sin, gooseberry astringency, bitter cherry rescue me, sinking into this soft gray mud - Civil War bones, native blood bones, flint-knapped teeth, ankle-biting bones. The tearful gaze of abandoned burrow. The tearful gaze of roadkill rarity, of buzzard-beak upheaval, of empty winter expanse, the tearful gaze of these terrible machines, they steal our peace in the night, the tearful gaze of canicular sunset watercolor in the wake of biblical rain, the tearful gaze of wind-flattened haybarn. Windmill by a lake green with duckweed. Trailer parked for years in limestone quarry, constellation shotgun holes. Dirt road, painted autumn leaves. Dirt road swallowed by the earth. Dirt road pheasant tail, forest fire red; anger in that plumage. Anger in the tiny birds, anger in the fieldmouse and vole, anger in the milkweed, compass plant, rattlesnake master, anger in the monarch - the Sandhills trumpet overhead and I crane my neck to watch them make their run for greener places:
they mate for life, you know.
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Soothing sniffle of a radio station not well received
Half-cup of cold coffee in the cupholder
And the crushing reality of distance, whining on
Lost in space, life fights tooth and nail
Part of me wants to sing along
To the harshness of the wind, to the tumbling infinity
Of the road, of the sky- silken horizon, carry me out
And my hands wind around the wheel, snakeskin soft
My sunken eyes drain light from sallow sun
Glasses burned away miles behind
And my ashen wake crackles, storm-burning butterflies
In thick flurries, tumbling through a morning sick with light
And so I’ll cut the dead weight at last, distant dream
Sliding sideways in my rearview, cutting diamond lines
In emerald road signs, and the earth burns where I step
And the earth burns where I step, and the earth burns.
Ben Covey is a poet, writer, and musician residing in Illinois. His work has appeared in publications by the Academy of American Poets and NPR, among other places. Soon, he will be gifted a large sum of money by a mysterious benefactor, and will never be seen again. That said, you can still find him on Twitter @mudscape, on Instagram @deusanatum and on on his website at Digitalmudscape.com
"List of Great Midwestern Sorrows" was previously published in Open Field #54. It was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Cornell College.