Eleven thousand years ago the last

glacier scraped through this field.

 

Transmuted by the new sun, struck

dumb with fear. When Joseph Smith

 

fell laughing to his knees before a pillar

of fire, his tongue swelling, his father

 

descended and spoke in a voice as cold

as the risen Sangamon Creek, saying

 

go home. Past noon, this basin of dirt

riddled with thick bloodless cracks.

 

A crop duster buzzes low overhead

to cough its toxic rain like a blessing

 

toward the dark corduroy of soybeans

to the west. Paint huffers straighten

 

on knee pads cut from vulcanized tires

and their pink-stained hands slow for

 

half a beat. Through the propped back

door of the school bus, popular music

 

washes over them, saying nothing

they haven’t heard somewhere before.

 

Originally published in Prairie Schooner