Meg Thompson lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and recently returned from Seoul, South Korea,
where she taught English. Her work has appeared at apt, JMMW, LUMINA, McSweeney's,
and PANK. Her chapbook, Farmer, is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press.

Driving South to Austin Through the Red States

Oklahoma, with your ditches like scars,
your land bled to prepare me for Texas.
I-35 your breastbone through the salt plains
and tallgrass prairie, I remember
Ohio, where I was
born, a barn made from stone,
and coyotes disappearing
across the railroad tracks
quick as steam. Kansas burns
its fields off until they are
black as space. At night
orange seams glow in the hills
like windrows of lava
but I still want it all
to go together:
hawk, mole, fire, fence
line, highway, Flint Hills.
The state all of us are in
only matters when we vote
what log behind the machine shed
we are going to turn over.
I got on the turnpike
without a ticket, somehow,
and was so nervous
I never saw my fields of salt.
Fields of salt. In my mind,
I see acres blank as paper,
wholesome as only nothing is,
drawing me to it the way I will be
years later to places like Mongolia
and Wyoming, dreaming
about tea made from sheep milk.
I did stand at the hem of your prairie,
Oklahoma, eating a chili dog
from Dairy Queen, static of the March
wind blowing the grass so hard
it actually never grows tall.
Maybe the wind stunted me
as well, outside too long
when I was growing up,
waiting to cross the road,
leaning back each time a car flew past.
Now, my trip to Texas
half in front of me, maybe
a night at the Best Western
, where I will still think about
you, Oklahoma, even when
I am underneath that sunflower
of hotel shower water, how I see you
everywhere, your panhandle
the bill of a great blue heron
rising to take flight over the interstate.

Dinner Outdoors, Remembering Leaf Identification Techniques

Yellow Poplar. Of course.
Also known as Tulip Poplar.
I sit in the grass, wrap
my arms around my knees,

think the warmth of dinner
outdoors is the warmth I've missed.
I�m so close to the ground
I tilt and press my cheek to it.

Listen. The earth gives back
with food and trees. It takes
the maple in my backyard a month
to turn the color of every other

tree, a girl learning to kiss.
Look, the day is beginning
to fall behind my car parked
on the hill, like it is being

funneled, the light thinning out,
draining into my backseat,
going home without me.
Leaves settle in a scrim

on the blacktop after a truck passes.
For the next, they will rise
again, the wind blond with them.
Ash trees. These must be from ash trees.

Charles Barkley Went To Auburn

You can tell by the way
avocados ripen then grow
skittish beneath his gaze,
snow geese wait
for his cue to migrate.
If you have a knife and an idea,
he'll tell you how
unimportant both of them are,
especially the idea.
He has a dog named Amanda
and she likes it when you tug
on her tail and tell her
how difficult life is.
After all, when people ask
if my sister-in-law
has been to Iowa, I lie
and say Who hasn't?
My oil changes
into a young adult novel
if I wait too long, yet I have
bigger things on my mind,
like if the turn signals on
ambulances are distinct
from their other flashing lights.
When Malcolm Gladwell eats
an apple, does he even care?
Why did Whole Foods make me
write a cover letter? Isn't it
unrealistic how protagonists
always find parking spots
in movies? Charles, are you
like me? Do you want to be?
I do. Describe me, but try
not to be descriptive.
The geese are waiting.
If you don't believe in me,
I'll keep asking until you do.

Sestina for the Cuyahoga

This is where I want to live,
close to where the heart gives out,
ruined, perfected...
--Andrew Greig, from �Orkney/ This Life�

There is no need to be formal,
so I will. Our effort isn't a locust,
remembering us every seventeenth
Tuesday. One of those days, every garage
will have a jukebox. Faithful as waterfowl,
we mate for life at the city's burnt river

where even our sidewalks are still on edge, the river
now cool to the touch. Sometimes our formal
wear is three pieces of candy corn, and the waterfowl
wrap their necks around each other if the locust
has no one to swarm with in a parking garage
somewhere off Seventeenth.

I do this on the seventeenth:
remember my river,
still as a car in a garage,
how it forced me not to be formal,
but descriptive without describing the locust
as having the same set of dry waterfowl

wings, something I learned (gripping waterfowl
wings) at a party where I only knew myself on my seventeenth
birthday. I swear: If I had a locust
flick me a nickel every time someone mentioned how our river
once exploded, soft with our own formal
waste, I'd sell my garage

but keep the jukebox and buy a bigger garage.
Is our waterfowl
more or less formal
than the ones perching in cities voted worse than seventeenth?
Take me to the Cuyahoga river.
Nevermind. I'm already there and so are the locust

groomers, their mustaches a place for each locust
to land and park like there is a garage
on their face. Remember our river
has depth and innocence. From the ashes, the waterfowl
now spread their wings like it's always the seventeenth
of June. Like they don't need formal

ties and some punctual locust, a formal
coast. Another river might have smoother waterfowl,
but the garage of our hearts are stronger than any amendment, even the seventeenth.

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