Kid, this is Iowa,

everything we are is here—
my dead grandmother as a girl
hunting fireflies in tiger lilies,
me throwing walnuts at gas cans
by the barn, stomping mud puddles,
my sticky hands lifting an apple
to my mouth. Here are dogwoods

and hills of corn that lead to more hills
of corn and more corn until the moon
comes up hot and my father
rattles the ice in his gin and tonic,
polishes his guitar. The horses

that dragged the lumber to build
my grandparents’ house still stomp
in the back pasture, swirl their tails
at fat, biting flies, and the sizzle of bacon
keeps waking me from my childhood
dreams: cattails snapping
their fingers, a badger’s green stare
caught in headlights, my grandfather’s
riding mower humming on the lawn,
confetti of clipped grass stuck
to his neck. The clouds here are so long

they stretch from the hidden parts of your blood
across the Atlantic to some lost place where
every ocean is healthy again, plump with whales,
and your forbears stand on cobblestones
around a barrel fire, licking
salted whitefish off their thumbs.

And here you are this morning, climbing
the wood fence I will always carry splinters from,
lifting your body into the smoke of
our leaf fire, great plumes of it reminding us
we were born to keep moving here, keep
leaving here, keep killing these fields and hills,
twisting them into smoke, then bringing them back.

Ella’s Plan

She’ll hold her hand out a window
on a June day, snatch a chubby fistful of air,
clutch it all night beneath her sheets. 

Out of a dream of flight she’ll emerge,
vast as a yard of clover, and fall like a comforter
over the neighborhood. Then she’ll shimmer

like a maple in the wind. You might catch a whiff
of pine-sweet air—that’s her hair—but she’ll never
let you look right at her. She’ll dart in your periphery,

quick as a dining room mouse. Dusk,
she’ll gobble her handful of breeze, and puff
upward in pieces, into the hot-pink west.

How Ella Knows

Ella’s hands know she’s alive today.
Her piano is drenched in sunlight,
and she spends the morning coaxing hums
from its belly. She has made a pet of the wind,
and she lets it in through the screen door, feeds it
dried blooms from a rhododendron.
She thinks about all the mirrors in the houses
on her block. Then she crosses the street
to her neighbor’s yellow door, peers
through the mail slot. It’s dark in there,
and all she sees is a stack
of blue plates on a table. Where
are the secret drawers filled with cigarettes
and diaries? Where are the boxes of pliers
and hammers, the screws flexing
their tiny shoulders? The needles and gum?
When a spider drifts up toward the ceiling,
the afternoon stops moving. Ella stares
for a long time. Then she blinks,
and the leaves go back to sizzling.

Kid, this is October,

you can make the maples blaze
just by stopping to look,
you can set your clock to the barks
of geese. Somewhere the grandfathers
who own this town lean down to iron
crisp blue shirts, their faces bathing
in steam, and blackbirds
clamor in packs,
make plans behind corn.

You know this,
you were born whistling
at crackling stars, you snap
your fingers and big turtles
slide out of rivers to answer.

You can swim one more time
in the puddle of sun
in your water glass, taste icicles
already in the white crunch
of your lunch apple. Go
to sleep. I’ll put on my silver suit
and chase the sky into the moon.