Above the Prairies Now Plowed

Chelsea B. DesAutels

Above the prairies now plowedto farmland a wake of buzzards circlessomething dead in the field.It is July. My grandmother has died.We are returning to the hills.In the front seat, my mother'sshoulders rise and falllike creek watertrembling over a boulderleft a billion years agoby an ocean we believe inbecause, although it is dry now,it seems right that we comefrom granite and sea.When my father, driving, explainshow it happened—the bleeding—we pull over so my mother can be sick.In the ditch by the exit for Plankinton,the sun is as hot as I remember it.Soon, we will reach the Missouri Riverand the flat land will begin to crease.Because my mother's silver hair is too shortto hold while she vomits, I put a handon the small of her back. After the rivercome the badlands. After the badlands,the hills grow black and softinto skies that force their own kindof weather. My mother knowsthis journey well, has probably traveledwest on 90 every year since I was born. She asksto switch me places, so that she might liedown in the backseat. I try to make hera bed from a jacket and a pillow.What can I do to ease her terror?My mother. I've never seen herall at once before.

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Headshot of Chelsea B. DesAutels

Chelsea B. DesAutels is the author of A Dangerous Place (Sarabande Books, 2021), a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her work appears in Copper Nickel, Massachusetts Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Southeast Review, and elsewhere, and has been featured on The Slowdown podcast. Chelsea lives with her family in Minneapolis.

Cover of Missouri Review Spring 2021

Spring 2021

Columbia, Missouri

University of Missouri

Speer Morgan

Managing Editor
Marc McKee

Associate Editor
Evelyn Somers

Poetry Editor
Jacob Hall

The Missouri Review, founded in 1978, is one of the most highly-regarded literary magazines in the United States and for the past thirty-four years we’ve upheld a reputation for finding and publishing the very best writers first. We are based at the University of Missouri and publish four issues each year. Each issue contains approximately five new stories, three new poetry features, and two essays, all of which is selected from unsolicited submissions sent from writers throughout the world.

New, emerging, and mid-career writers whose work has been published in The Missouri Review have been anthologized over 100 times in Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Poetry, The O. Henry Prize Anthology, and The Pushcart Prize. We are also pleased to be the first to have published the fiction of many emerging writers, including Katie Chase, Nathan Hogan, Jennie Lin, Susan Ford, and Elisabeth Fairchild.

The Missouri Review is, quite simply, one of the best literary journals in the world.”
—Robert Olen Butler

“I’ve admired The Missouri Review for years. . . . It’s one of a half-dozen literary magazines I always read.”
—Joyce Carol Oates

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