Milking The Nightmares

Dear love, dear sweet broken love,

tonight I am swilling down the lunar anxieties of the pumpkin moon. Despite aging hands over fearful eyes, I can see the brief angle of angels, their panties of bright silk glued to strong hips. I can hear the red-eyed ghosts of buffalo in the prairie wind. The ugly, gaunt beasts are nuzzling old cottonwood twigs in the dry creek bed and mumbling in Indian.

Sweet, fractured woman, I give you this expectant oasis of waking dream. Take these sorrowful dances of ragged memory; takes these merciless dandelions, these laughing, yellow songs of toughness mounting weakness. Here are the guns and the bullets, the infections and the pus. Sweetheart, these shallow words are my scars. They're all I have except the faint drum of our hearts tolling my ambiguous loss, and that low, muted thumping when we kiss is the piss-scented fog of your nursing home nightmare.

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Editor's Note


SNR's Writers


Moving from Point A to Pointless

One year before the millennium, the fat American sun spits shards past the cedars and through my K-Mart Venetian blinds. A spirit voice on AOL Instant Messenger is using the magic word LOVE. This voice knows I love another who is dancing with a terminal disease, but this voice is desperate, confused, and Christ, it confesses to wanting to gobble my gonads over the Internet! I tell it pain lives around that corner. The spirit voice begs me to run from responsibility, asks me to apply to teach in its city. It thinks I'll do great—wants me to go from the minor leagues to Cooperstown. If that is love, it is an aberrant love. Sometimes I think I'm being stalked, but I like it.

This goes on for more than a year and I come to see there's nothing on earth so painful, so pitiful as middle-aged lonely lust. Okay, I tell the voice, I love you, too. Pathetic. Man, I am pathetic and more than twelve years sober, talking to a voice whose body I've yet to see. Nevertheless, I mail my résumé to its sparkling school on the Pacific coast, but at the last minute I accept a harvesting job at the College of the Corn, deep in the deadlands of Minnesota, a day's drive from bleak glyphs I've clawed onto the Dakota of memory.

Evil Corn

My first few months in Minnesota, I listen to a Public Radio performer pimping a perfidious, nasal patter of prairie companionship, and I can't help but wonder what hairless planet he's nattering from. Okay, on the surface, it's safe here. Life is ordered. No stone-heart urban thugs a'dancing. No fearsome city noise to start the ears a'bleeding. But something about the place gives my bones the heebie-jeebies. Left to the sun and rain, this land of quaint squares of dark soil sprouts a bright uniform green from road to road that murders anything natural. Gone are the tall grass prairies, vanished are the native trees, and corralled are the once-feathered Indians. Evil corn and its masters have murdered this land.

I wake to my first harvest in southwest Minnesota and see that corn, the basic grain, the light of dark Indian stomachs for millennia, has transformed from a life sustainer to a life destroyer. When I tell a friend the corn is now evil, she titters and whispers, “Oxymoron.” Transplanted city folk at the college say how glad they are to be away from cities and in “the country,” but this place is not “the country” even though a green blanket shrouds the four sacred directions. This is subjugated land, strangely industrial and rural at the same time. Corn and soy fields rotate on alternating years. The corn here is tall and imposing, but it is not the same creature Squanto planted and spoon-fed the loony pilgrims with. This is not the corn of the Zuni shalako, and it's not the Diné holy giver of pollen.

This is not the corn I scratched into the dry dirt of my childhood. This is mutant flora, a green American Frankenstein born of chemicals and greed. It is lucre bound for the sweet tooth of America in the form of corn syrup, for our car gas tanks as ethanol, and as fodder for the stomachs of cattle. These cobs, genetically altered and pesticide soaked, cornhole all that is sacred.

In dreams, I recognize the sacred, have always tried in my profane way to bow to the sacred, but waking decades of hand-to-mouth survival have nearly blanched all holiness from my soul. Despite my occasional frothing, a typically generic American consumer lives in my mirror. Yet I reside in an ancient farmhouse surrounded by evil corn. Green death rises from this bad-heart land where I've brought my cats and dogs. We're exiled to a toxic hell where the laughing devils of necessity have chased us, five hundred miles form the dying woman we love. Do not pit my animal friends or me. Pity the sallow and linear pimps who greedily grow green the destruction of our ancestors and their natural world.

Adrian C. Louis is the author of ten previous volumes of poetry and two works of fiction including the novel Skins, which was filmed in 2002. An enrolled membero fot eh Lovelock Paiute tribute and a native of Nevada, he taught for many years at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota. Since 1999 he has been an English professor in Minnesota State University system.

These poems are excerpted from Evil Corn. Copyright 2005, Adrian C. Louis. Reprinted with permission from the author. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.