They’d been warned
on every farm
that playing
in the silos
would lead to death.
You sink in wheat.
Slowly. And the more
you struggle the worse it gets.
‘You’ll see a rat sail past
your face, nimble on its turf,
and then you’ll disappear.’
In there, hard work
has no reward.
So it became a kind of test
to see how far they could sink
without needing a rope
to help them out.
But in the midst of play
rituals miss a beat—like both
leaping in to resolve
an argument
as to who’d go first
and forgetting
to attach the rope.
Up to the waist
and afraid to move.
That even a call for help
would see the wheat
trickle down.
The painful consolidation
of time. The grains
in the hourglass
grotesquely swollen.
And that acrid
chemical smell
of treated wheat
coaxing them into
a near-dead sleep.

  • "Drowning in Wheat" from Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems by John Kinsella. Copyright 2004 by John Kinsella. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

  • Source: Peripheral Light: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2004)

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