What does it mean to say we know the properties
of ice, of snow? The wheat berries piled in metal bins
in the silos. The house on a corner lot, properly
broken down, the septic tank leaking
into the closets for years, rats in the attic, box
upon box upon box of belongings that belong
to the long dead. Sex toys and pornography.
Money stashed in old socks. In ties. In tobacco
tins. The house was once lovely. Flower boxes at the sills.
Large picture windows that held up the prairie
sky, faces of the parents we knew little, if at all.
How easily people end up like this, perhaps. We stand
at the tree line, and I can’t decide if Mother’s Ruin
is an appropriate name for gin, or screech,
or every century where someone died bleary-
eyed, a bottle within reach. How do we love
what is damaged? Ahead, the valley rivers through
the city. Ahead, the frozen prairie, the lone cross-
country skier. No one will find us here, I fear.
Here, the world is desperately bare. What now
is the prairie sky, if not another relic, burning?
Copyright © 2018 Chelsea Dingman. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.