Oregon Trail (1992)

Ellen Boyette

Couldn’t fathom more than           arranging verdant data left
by predecessors so, like windturbines hurling theoretical           money from thick nothing,
every field I built was built-in.Intrinsic. Splintering at angles           seraphs of my own invention
couldn’t concoct, land blackenedand curled into embryos often           small as commas, soft cavities
in enamel I surely tunneledby microhost via excess           saccharine—laughable
to think them more capableof scope. From the screened-in           where I live, I assess
the withering, crops pixelated togreen block then green block           then brown, inevitable
downgrade, but given the limitsof this sparse domain, to reappraise           would be to terminate
the deft work of handsthat handed me my own hands           and in me the land breeds
something other, detectablein vibration alone, retrievable           by neither oxen nor pack
expansion. In fewer words,I didn’t want to go. Paths           warp around my tantrum
of earth, worthless, like a toothin totality, my steel pick,           a talon plunging dark into
gum, never fully musclingto reveal the bloody root           despite the countless mouths
of every stranger glancing ‘crossmy own face at the general store           that pull and twist. Ask me
how to use a hacksaw and I’llcompose you a manual. Load           what I know. Go. No,
you. To the field, I knowI but blindly gloss over           failed genetic code glitching
land to glare, loosed from monitorto hand and anyway, the fields           are full of holes. I’m only
ill in a transactional sense. Noobject will hold me. To a plot           no sojourner could recall, I
throw seeds, and History isn’t eveninvented yet. From my screen           porch crook I hang up the bits
though no grim pearl lies waitingfor either dentist tool or capsule           collateral to pry life from a jaw
steeled, but I’ll tell you this: Once,rain appeared as if out of nowhere,           a pop up on the land, thick lines
countable, impossibly blue,an upright collision to my horizontal           tilling. Like a flash of plus signs,
I thought maybe I’d won something.

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Ellen Boyette is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is a Teaching-Writing Fellow and an editorial assistant for The Iowa Review. Her work appears at LEVELER, poets.org, Tagvverk, and The Iowa Review blog.

Flag + Void

Volume 11- Summer 2018

Logan Fry
Matthew Moore
Caroline Gormley

We desire a self-confident degree of alchemy.

We value density.

We back the materiality of language.

When in the field, language does gallop and snort.
Its rest need be fitful.
The poem that sleeps sleeps on its feet.

Language crafts its blueprint poem to poem.
There are no gold coins on the map; they must be forged by the poet.

To invent is to invent one’s construct, to stitch a flag from the void.

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