Poetry

Thirty-Six Silos

David Baker

To make a harvest of loneliness. To intend it.
Since the fields are green. Since the fields are tall—


You walk into black shucks, forty years by.
Shoving your way through the stiff, sharp leaves—


Where is the car, where are the lights, whose house.
Whetting their long blades all night-­wind—


The cows were out. Corn trampled. Hard rain.
And then, hard storm, the Air Force came to latch the gates—


Once she said be gone. Said where is your sorrow.
One by one, or twos or threes, there in the black fields—


The world opens a pair of eyes to look at itself.
How many did you hit? Three or four. One down there—


Ground ear corn: 1.94 cubic/bushel at 15.5% moisture.
Johnson has a locust growing through a dome now—


We got farm stacks all over. We got shadow stacks below.
He had 300 acres of corn. Don’t.
                                                     Now a field of tares—


What do you smell? Time. Oh please, not so poetic.
The farther they stretch the smaller you grow down—


Farm silos upward of 200 feet. Wheat, woodchips, ferment.
Minuteman, Atlas, Titan. Down 150 feet x 55 feet wide—


How could they take care of nuclear missiles
And not remember to check the gates? Blame thunder—


When you come back out, endlessness of wind blowing.
From the start of time to be swept through one’s ribs—


Airbnb. Missile Silo Fixer-­up Now Swanky Bachelor Pad.
Military latrine; farmer’s storage bin; “ultimate” safe room—


Pick your poison. Plutonium 239 half-­life 24,000 years.
Uranium 235, 700,000,000. Uranium 238, 4.5 billion—


Now a branch and now a nightingale
. I’m begging.
Now a tongue and now the words for tongue—


Skunk cabbage, field bindweed, pig wort, did I say.
Sorrow, did you say more, how long till we know—


The stars above are dots in a clattering wind.
Leaving the broken car. Walking alone in the field—


Now a silo reaching up to the black earth of sky—
Now a silo burning with the half-­life of the sun—

David Baker is the author of Swift: New and Selected Poems. He is Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021

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