by Sophia Newton


the overripe sun descends the blacktop

and bathes the chaff in hazy glow,

waving like aged fingers strumming a guitar,

their roots made hardy beneath Illinois snow.


chicory petals, thin as the film of ice 

that settles on a stream in early spring, 

intermingle with Queen Anne’s lace and clover

below the spasmodic flash of velvet-white wing. 


beneath the weight of the Illinois sun,

which bleached the top of wagons, melts the tar on roads,

raises crops in endless fields, 

from which whiskey used to flow.


the rush of passing cars 

drowns out the cricket’s roar;

corn streaks by, bleeding green and gold,

while my knee is propped against the car door.


languid summer night, 

humidity hangs syrupy and low,

twisting around me like a sweaty sheet

seeping in from the car window.


behold the Illinois sky, bending in a lofty arc, 

as though the interstate has its own gravitational pull.

gold fades to red into plum into black 

and heralds the arrival of a moon ancient and full.


the silent, maternal observer, 

fixed above the ever-advancing car—

she stood witness when they razed the oldest farmhouse in the region 

just to mar the land with concrete and steel and tar. 


this land is your land,

this land is my land,

the prairie dust in is my bones,

like it once covered my ancestors’ hands.

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