PoetryWinter 2023

Cornfield — Matthew Gilbert

Sundown the manure smell crusts hard
over my car and Danny in his and Johnny Angel
with his pickup, all three of us
headlights off
plowing into rows of oil black

stalks slapping the windshield oil black
to see who hits who first,
the radio dial spun high
to drown out the drumroll of deflating ears.

Yes, we feel afraid
but want to feel it, turned around
and crossing a trail of crushed corn, wheels
searching the mutilated rows
for purchase—I flinch

at a face and slam
on the brakes, fishtailing over
flattened stalks and my brain resigns itself
to death, one second of true clarity
before I side-swipe a scarecrow

who cartwheels off into the sky. Breathing hard
the engine steams from still-cold moonlight
dousing us like milk,
and the shock of it
on my forehead—it gets weaker over time.


Matthew Gilbert’s work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, PANK, Sugar House Review, Powder Keg, Redivider, and elsewhere. They live in Connecticut and measure the general success of life by the ratio of trees to people wherever they happen to be. Follow them on Twitter at @ThatMattGilbert.

The author: Debra Marquart