The Burning Field
BY Duncan Campbell
I was in-between fears. I dreamed
only of a woman who removed everything
before bathing in the river. The pale band
left by her ring flashed minnow-like
under the surface. Her laughter
was a fire burning. Within the cornfields
I twisted an ear free from the stem, husked
it, and tallied kernels. The night was wet
like a truss of grapes trodden underfoot,
the packed soil between corn lines riven
in narrow gestures. Pollen beads
dissolved into a paste that coated
everything. A lash hooked
in the corner of my eye. She walked
barefoot through the barbed thicket and a breeze
licked the corn tassels like a whisper of fire,
a flush of crows staining the pines. We say ghost
to suggest a being that exists,
barely felt, nearly transparent.
Stains in memory no amount of water
could scrub clean.
The Catharsis Gland
Edge of light each morning, hushed
and still without the source. Fog traces over the river
like someone dreaming of a river, smoke
budding from the chimneys of the lowland
Quonset huts occupied by the people
we call river-trash. I rub my eyes
and then am ruled by chores: count hens
for fox-kill, collect their eggs,
and with a stiff brush scrape them clean.
Sometimes an egg will break
despite my white-knuckled care.
A boy could be punished for this
and for other events over which
he has no control, forced to write
with his off-hand because the left one
is sour, his mother struck dead by lightning
on a cloudless day. A boy
could be punished. One night I ran
off. The village men fanned through the woods
for a rescue but found only a frothing
handful of boy, body coated
in venereal sores. Oversexed, they murmured
to one another, and returned to normalcy.
The day that I learned, a chiseled tooth
fell out of my mouth. It followed me for weeks,
leaving a little scar in the dirt as it went.
Duncan Campbell is a graduate of the MFA program in writing at the University of New Hampshire. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in elimae, Paper Nautilus, Stoneboat, Sun’s Skeleton, and Transom. He was the recipient of the Collins Literary Prize in 2010 and the Dick Shea Memorial Award in 2012.