The sun peaks lower each day, arcing back
behind the trailer park and into the river
well before eight, leaving everything couched
in forked shadows. Each night the soiled plates
of switchgrass usher him to sleep. He dreams
rows of field corn grown inward, brace roots
pushing like fists up from the fractured earth.
The girl who enters his bedroom never speaks
in whispers, nor are these the palms of angels
slapping his face and chest: “get up, I missed
the goddamn bus.” His daughter is purposeful.
Just starting high school and already she knows
things. The road dips toward water. Smoking
a Winston Slim, she tells him this whole state
was once on the floor of an ocean, after which
it was owned by the Arapaho, who owned
nothing. She doesn’t blink when the pickup
backfires like a pistol shot, or when he brakes
into a cloud of insects. One of them sticks,
ascends the windshield, tethered to a thread
of itself. She edges forward, crushes out
her cigarette. A locust. A seventeen-year.
She knows this just by looking at its wings.
Originally published in Mid-American Review