A Poem by Anders Carlson-Wee

We're thrilled to have Anders Carlson-Wee teaching a poetry workshop for us this weekend. Here's one of his poems to whet your appetite for the class, "Narrative Poetry: Story & Image," which meets Saturday, Mar. 7, from 2 - 5 pm. Seats still available! Register and learn more here

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Northern Corn

 

Traveling alone through Minnesota

as the corn comes in. Steel silos filling

to the brim. Black trees leaning

off the south sides of hills as the cold light

falls slantwise against the gristmills.

You have allowed another year to pass.

You have learned very little.

But that little is what you are throwing

in the furnace. That little is stoking the dust-

coals of last year and burning something.

Burning blue. The ninety-year-old father

is bringing his crop in. He climbs

off the thresher, checks the engine,

moves an oak branch. He pours

rye whiskey from a thermos and sips

the lidless excess of his private noon.

The size of his hands. The size of one finger.

The flathead prairie of his calloused

thumb-pad. He lies awake in the middle

of the night and whispers something

and suddenly loves his son again.

The way excess falls through him.

The way oil runs down the Mississippi River

and remains on the surface and burns.

The father no longer breathing.

The respirator breathing. The father lying

in a hospital bed in a nightgown.

The plastic tubes and machinery.

The whole hospital breathing.

The janitor waxing the white-tile floors

at midnight while life is trying hard

to leave. You must go to your father

while he is still your father.

You must hold him. You must kiss him.

You must listen. You must see the son

in the father and wonder. You must admit

that you wonder. Stand above him

and wonder. Drop his swelled-up hand.

Whisper something. Now unplug the machine.

 

“Northern Corn” originally appeared in Best New Poets 2012

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Anders Carlson-Wee is a 2015 NEA Fellow. He is the winner of Ninth Letter's 2014 Poetry Award and New Delta Review's 2014 Editors' Choice Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, West Branch, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Linebreak, Best New Poets 2012 and 2014, and elsewhere. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and the Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Residency Fellowship, Anders is currently an MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University.