Where I live the corn and the wheat are made of steel.
Their stalks stand a foot for every week my grandfather
the farmer’s son
has been in the grave.
I’d like to lie down at the bottom of the corn in the spaces between the stalks
to get close to grandfather
and watch the stars watching right back at me
but the soil here is too stiff.
It’s unyielding to a body
tamped to death as yesterday’s minutes
gray and comfortless as an ocean without a shore.
Though there is an ocean here
that’s not an ocean
and shores that are comforting shores
and there are burning bushes here and burning trees
that do not burn.
The flames of these wear black masks and cherry robes
and holy names.
They mate and molt and sing a song
like rain bouncing backward off the solid gaps in a liminal wilderness
or between the growing grasses of a vanished prairie.
The air at dusk here fills with lightning
that is not lightning
with delicate and black electric bolts
the size of front teeth.
They glow a green very unlike the green of young corn
and a yellow very unlike the yellow of ripe corn.
My grandfather knew them
He caught them in his farmer’s son’s hands
very alike my city girl’s hands long ago
and last summer.
This was before his eyes caught the lights that crown the steel stalks
and needle the stars
here where I live
before he left Iowa
its true corn
its cut and dried fields and cut and dried past
for this concrete prairie, this thresholder’s town
this farmer’s granddaughter’s birthplace
He handed me down a beginning.
I’ve inherited the transformation.
René Ostberg is a native of Chicago and lives in Illinois. She write a travel-themed blog called Writing and Wayfaring. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming at Literary Orphans, We Said Go Travel, Wilderness House Literary Review, and the Encyclopædia Britannica blog.