KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Poem: 248 words [R]

Corn Fires

by Kai Carlson-Wee
Fields of junked cars. Fields of horses. Fields
of semi-trucks hollowed by time. It looks like
the reason you sailed beyond us, Nik. Riding
whatever was left in your veins. A ripple of heat
running out of the coals in the same way, spilling
the same dank spells on the air. The way smoke
finds your face when there’s no wind to blow it
away. The way bodies find other bodies impossible
not to touch. The way everything gets old, tired
of being what it is. And memory finds us constantly
changing the reasons—light pouring in through
the windows of death’s dark cathedral—infinity,
heroin, driftwood, ash. However you want to
explain it. The night I went back to the ballfields
in Dundas, standing alone in the emptiness there
(the marked yards, vacated bleachers) and took off
my shoes on the roof of your grave, as the flood-
lights went brighter, making that giant design more
complete, more lost in the purpose of duty. And
the reason these lyrics still stand in my mind, however
distorted by grief and time, by not understanding
the words. And the reason I’m wasting this weekend
without you, walking around on these backcountry
roads, going nowhere, watching the corn fires fade
to a heatwave, burn to a black carpet, to shriveled
hairs crushed to a fine nothing, a powdered ash,
a peeling of smoke rising up from my bootsoles.
Doing a little dance, stabbing a stick in the ground.

—Previously published in Linebreak (13 January 2016); appears here by author’s permission

Kai Carlson-Wee
Issue 5, Spring 2016

has rollerbladed professionally, surfed north of the Arctic Circle, and traveled across the country by freight train. He began writing poetry after finding a copy of Silence in the Snowy Fields on a dusty shelf in his grandfather’s cabin. His work has appeared in Narrative, Best New Poets, TriQuarterly, and The Missouri Review, which selected a group of his poems for the 2013 Jeffery E. Smith Editor’s Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco, and is a Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford University.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Riding the Highline, a 16-minute documentary film about poet brothers Kai and Anders Carlson-Wee hopping trains across the country; film was a selection of the 2015 Napa Valley Film Festival.

Jesse James Days, a love song about the difficult bond between brothers, in The Missouri Review (April 2014)

Holes in the Mountain, a poetry film by Kai Carlson-Wee, shot during a freight-hopping trip with his brother, Anders, from Oakland to Portland, summer 2014. Text of the poem is archived at PoetryFilm.

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