in every drought-outed sky you see Kansas.
You see a bowl of dust

nested in your grandmother’s hair. Missouri
River banks pulling back

to smile. Say the hazed field is up to its neck
with dry seed,

that between this city and the next all
the abandoned homesteads

look like tenantless bodies, an estate gone
belly up. Still,

say there is beauty to be found here, honest
men willing to undo

every good thing
just to prove they can live without happiness.

Say the farmer’s widow,
whose money is useless, knows something

about salvation
you don’t. Say the teenage girl

pushed into the woods wanted to be there,
that when her face

was pressed into the dirt
she smelled the history of rain. Say

each fiery oak
would look majestic in someone’s yard,

but in the forest it is just another tree. Say
the girl hid in the ditch

when the headlights fogged over the hill,
an alarm of red brakes

beating in her veins. Say the country is not
as wild and clean

as people think, weeds and garbage bellied
against the hand-

hammered fence. Say when the sun rises
the crows will zero down

to count every half blessing
and the Copperheads will abandon wrist-thin

snake holes— there
on a roadkill road where what doesn’t

limp away
dies by the side. Say there will always be

bigger secrets
hidden beneath smaller secrets. Say the girl

ran from the ruin.
______________Say the girl was the ruin.


Kristene Kaye Brown