Mika Kligler | Saint Ann’s School | Brooklyn, NY
Half harvested in late August.
Baked yellow husks hang off stalks. It is hot.
It is dusk and dry chutes
stretched and shrunken
whisk the moisture from our sticky skin.
They bend in close and whisper along
our arms, our backs, our thighs
as we army crawl through cornfields.
Our summer-swollen bellies are caked with dirt,
and stalks press in close all around.
In September, we get under our desks.
We hunch and fold ourselves in, cannot move a muscle.
Heads bent into our knees we listen for a whistle;
through fat Mrs. Crump’s hummed “How Sweet the Sound”,
ears strain to make out the whisper of the end of the world.
After school we hole up in the tree house over by Cottonhollow.
Four of us collect, angular limbs strangely
interlocked. Our bodies are hot and lanky.
We are hooked on Life—we fill our cars with kids and pass paydays.
Wood surrounds us like a cocoon.
The Wrenches live down the road, and in November, Rusty runs
into me with his mouth wide open and his teeth split my forehead.
“Jesus” says Rusty Wrench and runs with his mouth still open.
Hot blood slicks and steams, I’m black-faced red.
Shame that Halloween’s gone past.
In December, we hear that some high school kid
swan-dived off the rocks into the river behind the middle school,
and it was too shallow.
We hear that now he’s stuck
in the hospital, and stuck
We hear he tells his legs to move but they’re stuck
too. Pa says: “Dumb kids.
If you ever…”
In January, Christy Cooper next door starts saying “Goddamn.”
Her mother screams at all hours.
Christy says “Goddamn it ma,
you’re suffocating me.”
Lying in bed with the covers over my head my breath condenses.
In the darkness I can’t make out anything beyond my belly button.
“Christy,” I say, “I’m starting to feel suffocated too.”