Back to Issue Twenty-Three.

ILLINOIS FANFARE

BY KARA KREWER

The town was protected
by the body of a child saint
from the tornadoes that ravaged
surrounding farms.

But the bird flu was bad that year,
and I saw one crow slide dead
off the branch into the snow,
the others tilting their
heads with a little solemnity
and continuing to preen
their mites away.

This was also the winter I watched a lot
of those old movies called weepies,
ones where a handsome stranger
lights the ugly girl’s cigarettes for her
throughout the whole cruise
until he steps off the boat and onto
a familiar shore, his wife and children
waiting for his return.

In spring the tree buds
seemed kinetic in their fullness,
and I inherited a map
of the town’s drainage basins.
I would scuttle down
the concrete ravines at night
and think of very different things:

Veronica Lake’s hair,
if an older man complimenting
your watch counted as flirtation.

The flashlight revealed in the water
tiny animals washed
there by chance, a few minnows
dashing by a pearlescent
tampon applicator, crawdad
on a rusted license plate. 

Near the grain elevator
you could go underground,
follow the pipe for several blocks
until the graffiti stopped,
and the sewer became so narrow
you could no longer stand.

I looked up at manhole covers
and listened to cars roll overhead,
the thunk of hollowness itself.

By summer the town had tried
all the normal tactics
to make the crows leave
and finally called
a sort of avian exorcist
who would only work alone
by cover of night. The lawn

was untended, so I filled
a glass bowl with fistfuls
of purslane and dandelion greens, 
ate them with lemon and oil

on the stoop and watched
a lone squash grow in the compost.
It fattened itself on the waste,
and it was so immense that one day
it must have called out
to someone who desired it
enough they returned
that night, took it away. 

 

 

COLLARDS

BY KARA KREWER

Still the same great fields of long-suffering boredom
as when we were children,

the day trip to the ag college,
where a farmer mumbles
something about pesticides, drainage,

and the kids stub the rubber toes
of their shoes in the sand.

They want to see the cows,
eat ice cream with flat, wooden spoons.

They hold their hands to their brows
and squint across the acres of dark leaves.

The farmer holds up a section
of black tubing and talks about drip irrigation.

No word about the land, of toil.
No word about the plant,

which for just that first day of a year
means money, means luck.

The students come alive
when told they can take home
all the greens they can carry.

Rough, potent, the leaves
trail sand behind them.

Some of the children cradle
the collards like infants.

Others gather their arms
around them like Rivera’s lilies.

One girl says proudly
that her mother will make them
for dinner tonight. 

And I can see her walking
through the door, face held

high over the giant bouquet
of tough leaves, her mother sighing
and washing the sand down the sink.

 

 

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Kara Krewer grew up on an orchard in rural Georgia. She holds an MFA from Purdue University, and her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from the Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, the Journal, and elsewhere. She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and lives in Santa Clara, California.

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