Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Kansas, 1931

Now the dust comes as sleep does.
Through the bulrush, shuddering
with the thunder deviled horses bring—

rising hoof and hock, black-
pelted, keeping the wheat
that once whispered us awake.

There is no breath in the moving
dark. We cut cloths to cover
our mouths, wet the windows

with bedsheets, rip the seams
of feed sacks, but nothing hides us
from the earth. Like a god’s

son, it returns. Not to feast
with a thousand wine-finned fish,
but to remind us of our sins:

last year and luminous as a lion,
the corn crop was a ladder tall
before it fell. Without the rain,

its kernels curl, spilling to our feet,
where even we can’t crush them
into something we could price.

Like anyone who tastes fortune,
we took to loving light. But now dust
dwells in our house as we do,

the rip-rugs so turned with dirt
they could be gold beneath. Quiet
silt sits over our eyes, gilding them

as if with a story only children tell.
Those with the strongest wings,
as the saints said, can escape.

But the wind is in the rest of us—
dry-spired, bound to our bones—
while the snow falls red in the east.  end  

The line “took to loving light” is from Knut Hamsun. The line “those with the strongest wings . . . can escape” is an adaptation of a description of the storms from Lawrence Svobida’s eyewitness report.

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