As particles of snow, miniscule and alive
curl and blow across the ice-covered road
like smoke too dense to rise, I am driving. No,
creeping, eastbound, somewhere
near Fairfax, Minnesota. My night- shift
over, I’m as used-up as these fields,
their white monotony, broken,
only, by an occasional farmhouse, its kitchen light on.
I am thinking of my grandparents’ farm,
of roots; how difficult it must have been
to get by on days
like this. I watch the sun slowly rise over silver silos
and wonder how any of us survive
all this beauty, all this brutality.
In a saggy lean-to, cattle huddle
together. In the near-distance,
a cluster of spherical chambers and large metal towers
release puffs of steam into the air. Taking
a deep breath, I inhale the sweet, sickening
smell from the ethanol plant.
Heater on high, I drive by a Cenex,
where the price of gas is cheap. I wish
I could talk to my grandparents
about the small piece of farm land I will inherit.
How would my grandfather feel about
corn used for ethanol, and what about GMOs—
what price will we pay for patented seeds
that increase yield, that are insect, herbicide
and drought tolerant? Would he be tolerant, too,
about companies like Monsanto?
And wasn’t it Kissinger who said,
Control oil, you control nations;
control food and you control people?
Three pheasants scurry
across the road; I just want to hurry
up and get home, heat up my Egg McMuffin, and binge-
watch some Netflix. And yet, I think my Lutheran
grandparents would be telling me
to pray hard right now, to give it up to Jesus. I pass
a middle-aged SUV, abandoned in the snow-filled ditch;
I am thinking, thank god that’s not me,
while someone on the radio is singing,
Ain’t none of us gettin outta here alive.
As I drive home from work, seat-belted,
tired, my airbags on; I try to believe
I’m in control of my car, my fate
but I just can’t shake that last call. Up ahead,
I imagine a woman waving at me from the porch
of an old yellow farmhouse,
but I pass by. The real image is too fresh, and
I just left her a few hours ago
on the slippery road
next to the plowed and frozen fields
among the broken glass and scraps of metal,
where fire-trucks and ambulances
cast off red and blue
Traffic was blocked from the east and the west;
there was an overturned car in the ditch,
A pick-up truck was smashed against a telephone pole;
There were lit up flares, a landing zone,
a crowd of yellow-vested volunteers
who used the jaws of life
to pull her from the wreckage.
She was lying flat on her back
in the middle of the road.
She had short red- hair, mid-thirties,
but she could have been my age;
her bright yellow sweatshirt had been cut
down the middle: Breezy Point Resort.
A man’s giant hands were pressing up and
down on her chest, sweat flew from his hair.
Another man was squeezing a bag, giving her breath.
I reached for her carotid. Felt nothing,
and everything. This was a traumatic arrest—
with a survival rate as close to zero as you can get.
The medic and I walked away with an empty
stretcher. Yet briefly, we were there,
with those other strangers on the road.
I noticed a man’s moist brown eyes,
how gently he brought his finger and thumb
to her eyelids, and closed them.
And the other man, too, I remember,
his vapored breath, as he stood over her
with a thick wool blanket, and how tenderly
he covered her pale cheeks, her ghost-like breasts
from the face of the snow.