No Road Out


poem by Kristene Brown


Cars pass, do not brake.
What doesn’t limp away dies by the side.
The tire spun road kill gone to prey-bait.
Cows graze on a flat patch of barbed land
chewing cud under a hot noon sun.
That cattle shit smell sticks
to every pretty girl’s hair,
the way tornado wind weds dirt,
to flower, to fence, to skin.
And the daily resurrection of sun and moon
will not save the farmer’s drought crop,
a stunt grow, dry ache, row after row
of wheat dust grave.
This town, where even the preacher
speaks through a lip-wad of chew,
Skoal wintergreen, the faint stain of nicotine.
A spit is all we need to feed the mouth,
to fill the collection plate, to pay
for our debt-ridden double wide
with broken window like a black eye,
dirt-stunned and blind.
Here, at rubber boot bottom
we know the soul of slaughter blade—
the jaw-down hooked cattle heavy
in the hang of cold and bone,
the thick run of empty vein, so deep
we mine that metal taste,
as a factory girl cleaves to stand
over the spiral of a slow drain.