m e l    c o y l e

from THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE

 

a road leads to the black corn

landscape

weather

a bar at the end of the dock with lights on




































a road leads to the black corn

 

it is important to tell you I grew up here. that I know things about this place that you don't. it gets dark. the cornfields expand. you can't find a place on yourself to remember. it is important to tell you that you need my help. if you don't ask for it I won't know what you don't understand. it is important to tell you that the people who live here are all like me. when I speak they listen. they don't like outsiders. they love me because I am one of them. a part of the beginning & the end. you should know if you love this place enough & yourself a little less you can stay.

 

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landscape

 

a man came here once. a map maker. like a dog he led a red string through the black corn. this was his tool. he cut the landscape into squares. into triangles. he rotated his body then he rotated the map. in detail he kept record of his trials but the map would not stay.



we told him the uselessness of his map. we secretly hoped it would not be useless but each time his boot left the door his boot was blindfolded. still he felt compelled. he put the fields into giant red circles. ovals. cones. diamonds. a billion microscopic red cubes. it got more complicated. he invented new shapes & made up their names. he wrote new books to keep their names. he invented a new study which was a study of this place. but the night fields are not a place you can go. they are a place you end up.

 

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weather

 

this is the kind of place where it storms. the children fear the sound of the sun. it burns until the moon rises. it is important to heal here. in our language the word for weather is the same as neighbor. a spirit who walks in the streets. there is no north. you walk until you find. no matter how many times you walk the rows of black corn you will never be back. you look to the black sky for guidance & see distance. other times there is a quiet light that follows you. then it rains. it will always rain. you should smile at that



you should know that every time you wake up you won't know where you are. your body will be in the same bed but the world will have shifted. not like an earthquake. like water. you will panic. it is panic from an old place. you get the message. I'll be good. who made the world & what happens to us when we die. I'll believe in something if you let me make it through the night. & that is why you need me.

 

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a bar at the end of the dock with lights on

 

my parents are meeting for the first time tonight.



they aren't wearing anything special because they can't see the future yet. until the story becomes part of their narrative they don't even notice the name of the bar. it is a place in a string of places you park the car & walk to. so the story goes it is snowing. the bar is packed. shoulder to shoulder. when my parents tell the story the place is alive. the glass is steam. people stop using the door. they move in & out of the walls. go from solids to liquids to solids to steam. everyone is mouth. biting for cold then hot.



all the energy goes straight into the telling. details change but if you are lucky the falling is only something to be told. where my mother says you embellish & my father says no. I knew.



don't you ever do that.

ask people how they met.


you are wondering how I am here but things don't work like that. in this place things still have to happen. my parents still have to meet. my father is approaching the bar & my mother is already there. he waits for his drink. she talks to her friends. my father's hand is closed like he is hiding something. he brings his fist between their faces. it is snowing. when he opens his hand she sees a piece of chocolate upright in his palm.


a kiss?

he says.



they follow each other out. don't bother using the door or anything solid this is different. it is important to tell you that things happen fast. the night ends & my father never gets her name. he doesn't know what to call her because my mother still has to sign her name in the ice. he still has to wake up & realize he never got her name. he still has to throw on his robe & see the world covered in snow & wipe away the snow to find her name written in the ice. she still has to pick up the phone. it is important to tell you that every time people who live here fall in love they can see how it ends.



my problem is I don't want to know. you ask if you can follow me home through the black corn. there is too much momentum in the field & you didn't grow up here so you don't know how it ends. the people who live here insist on the telling of the bigger picture. on making the moral clear. you want to know what happened. what they saw.

 

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MEL COYLE is from Chicago and other places where the corn grows. She currently lives in New Orleans and co-edits the poetry journal TENDE RLOIN.


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