When we were barely still children,
city limit signs sealed our fate.
We saw our town as either stable or irreversible.
No one ever told us those words could be synonyms.
When chemicals became solutions,
we never saw the way out.
We fucked like teenagers
because we were teenagers.
We bought and sold pot through
drive-thru windows, got into fights
behind the bowling alley, and
drove in circles around town.
There was always a broken heart
to soothe, more often than not
We ran out of distraction, and created it
by burying speedometers on back roads
with our headlights and sense of safety
both off. Lost in cornfields and drainage
creeks, all of us firefly gorgeous
and water bug quick.
We saw smoke roll up from car hoods
and cook houses in the twenty miles
between each town, most of them
less than a thousand strong
and struggling to breathe
through the fumes
and harvest dust.
BYOB strip clubs with loose
ID procedures were the norm.
Nothing shocked us.
We snatched tassels from the
tops of corn stalks every summer
for two dollars an hour,
ten hours a day,
until we turned fifteen,
then we made minimum wage
or weren’t asked to come back.
We dealt with the harvest brought
every autumn by wronging rights.
We were drunk on youth,
the truth we might be trapped in,
and the cheapest alcohol in history.
For ten dollars you could get
ten jugs of Thunderbird wine,
or a dozen forty ounce Old Styles,
or a fifth of something rot gut
and a twelve pack,
but no one had ten dollars.
We passed the Friday night collection plate,
bought booze at Sunset by the Wal-Mart
because my cousin worked there
and wouldn’t card me, then drove out
into the darkness to beat down the crops
in the fields and each other.
We all dated and cheated
with and on each other
and got caught and broke up
or didn’t get caught and got married.
When winter came, everything died and got cold.
The snow and ice broke power lines and people.
Everything froze or was frozen, everything broke
was broken. We rarely felt whole.
Some of us followed the wind
across the freshly planted rows
in the spring right on out of town,
past the curve of the earth we had
never tried to see beyond.
Some wanted more than a
farm, factory, or pharmaceutical future,
and flew away from the breeze that
blew the dreams from our heads.
Some never flew. Never moved.
Still live in the houses their parents died in.
Stayed still as soybeans waiting to be harvested.
Some got harvested and replanted
into the same ground that birthed them.
They became the jagged, ugly sticks
that keep the top soil
from blowing away.