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Callista Buchen


Kansas came at us with highways bleeding into the fields.
Kansas came at us with rivers bleeding into the highways.
Kansas came like a pulse, flat and smooth and bodiless.
Full-bodied anyway.
We have come, we said.
To stop the bleeding, we did not say out loud.

It was burning and red
except for the yellow
except for the exoskeletons hanging on the fences
except for our shadows, which looked like other shadows in Kansas and had the same black- glow blood, waving in and out of Kansas, which did not change the wheat or corn
or sunflowers it bled against, except to make more blood in waves.

Kansas has no skin.
Kansas is without a body, or rather is all body, body everywhere, since Kansas has no
We have come, we said.
We could have gargled in the blood.
We have always been rolling bandages.
It still sputters at us. Wind, wind, wind.


They pitch the tent in the center. The woman adjusts the strings while her companion beats the stakes, his knuckles like armor around the mallet.

Somewhere, a potter's wheel turns, a pedal compresses.

The companion waits for the rain, feels the ache in his thighs. All of this is expected.

The rain knows, too. The rain waits, sucks in. Hold your breath. Pebbles almost reach up.

The woman looks busy, her hands down the sides of her own arms as if working clay. Tree branches look like swords.


The rain and the companion could be old friends. The rain and the companion could be strangers. Strange. Passengers on the same city bus, survivors of the same crash. He hammers.

The woman doesn't want to get wet. She reaches down, clay between the treads of her sneakers, clay between her thumb and ring finger. She holds her breath in the fist of her chest, lets the clay harden on her hand.


The companion layers a fire. He watches the orange curl and flex, bend over and rebound in the breeze off the lake.

Listening, the companion stands in place like a sentry or a kiln. He knows.

Somewhere, a wheel turns.

The rain ushers molecules into rows, lets the weight hang, swing. Cattails, throats. Spin. Whirl.

The woman sits by the fire. Throw.


The rain, the rain.

The companion bends next to the fire, to the clay, and starts to build. The woman shakes in the beat of her body, the movement of a wheel.


Kneeling now, the companion shapes the clay, pulls figures from the ground. Love letter. Rain watches, too.

He shapes spheres and sticks. Casual. She has seen this in dreams. He shapes triangles and squares. Prayer. Meditate. He weaves walls of clay, builds towers, cuts windows. He makes a horizon. He kneels and turns a bowl, earthen and wide.

The companion concentrates like the crack of a storm. The woman can almost hear the trumpets, almost see the banners.


The rain comes after the woman and the companion bury the fire, after they step around the walls and enter the tent, after they lie on the mat and listen.

Once they are inside, the rain opens. It sounds like creak of a pedal, down, up, down. At first, the woman thinks the tears, falling from the open window, are her own. The companion thinks about edges, about the rain on her cheeks, wet trails lit like coils of eyes.


They will wake to watercolor. To softened tips. To color over edge.

Rain will still drop from the leaves, bubble along trunks and pine needles. The woman will think she is seeing things. She will almost see faces. Hold your breath. She will think in moving.

The companion will spin fingers through her fingers, dirt to dirt. The tent stakes will pull from the ground.

The figures will seem to have wept overnight. They won't have to look to know the lines will not have held.


Someday in the future you will
want to go fishing and you will
find a hole in your garage
that seems perfect for fishing.

There will be a broom right there,
an old jump rope, and a collection
of rusted refrigerator magnets
that you had meant to throw away.

The magnets tied to the rope tied
to the broom will work for a pole.
The hole will collapse into a lake.
And you will be a fisherman.

As you stand over the hole,
you will think the rushing sounds
come from rapids and underground
springs, though this cannot be

because you will live in the desert:
sand everywhere. Everyone
you know will speak sand-speak,
sand-speak this and sand-speak that.

You will think you are the only one
who remembers water, while you cast
into a hole in your garage, gripping
a pole of jump rope and magnets.

You will know how it looks. You
will close your eyes anyway
and think in layers of blue and green,
like in the films you have seen

where the ocean looks like a layer
cake and the diver is incredibly smaller
than the whale. But they will come
at you, into your garage, leaning over

your fishing hole going sand-speak,
sand-speak, and pretending to see
the water and nodding at your pole.
They will come at you with fistfuls

of sand, rockets of sand, armies
of sand. You will close your eyes:
you will be busy thinking colors.
You will be busy about fishing things,

trout, temperature. You will ask the ones
with the sand what do they know
about planktonic algae. Sand will pour
from their mouths. Sand-speak, sand-speak.

When you start catching, they will
really come at you. They will want
to examine what you keep
in the barrel, to grab the pole.

They will want to cover your garage
with sandy hands, to scratch their arms
across your eyes, even as they blow apart
in the wind of your lake. They will come.

You will try to fish only after dark
or on the weekends but when they break
into the garage and back up a truck,
full of sand, you will realize

it is not enough or too much
and you don't want to sleep
in your garage or to give up fishing.
Your tongue bleeds from sand.

You try to make a net from blue,
rope, and algae, from whale
and rushing, but it can not hold back
the sand. You will look into their sand

eyes and grow weary. You will plan
to fish only until the wind returns
like a tide. Then the air will go thick
with grain and sand-speak

empty. Keep your barrel,
when the air swims with sand
and speaking blows away. Keep
it tight and ready for water.

➥ Bio