Half the cattle died last night.
The storm moved in
like nothin' I ever seen.
The world turned white
before I could move 'em
and they were flash-frozen
in the far paddock.
From the barns I watched
in the bitter cold
as twenty years were taken from me.
It cleared around midnight
and in the sudden stillness
I saw their half-buried bodies,
moonlit and scattered in the quiet drifts.
I walked to the house
took off my boots
and sat down at the kitchen table.
How bad? she asked.
The Dialect of Weather
Fields stretched out between farms.
Chimney smoke. A gloved handshake.
Marks on the rain gauge.
So we know where we stand.
Because distance is no measure of intent.
I came upon God looking over his fields
in the soft light of a late summer evening.
He half-turned to me and said,
"We'll see rain by the end of the week."
"Well," I said. "We need it."
"Yes, we do," He said.
"Yes, we do."
Walk-to taverns and lawn tractors.
Mowed-around abandoned Buicks.
Plastic lawn chairs.
Chipped-paint garages with missing shingles.
Flower beds around the mail boxes.
A bass boat. A painted wagon wheel.
Old farm equipment.
A Casey's general store.
Trees thinning. Houses stretching.
Graveyard on the edge of town.
And then nothing but corn
and the silos that hold the corn.
He's been fingering a matchbook for ten minutes.
After a few beers he turns to me and says,
—You ever burned a barn down?
—One time we was drinking down at the quarry
and then the next thing I knows I'm all alone,
piss drunk and colder'n hell. I started walking
home and I seen this big ol' barn in the moonlight
and I thought, shit, I would love to light that up
and watch it burn. Jus' fer the hell of it, ya know?
So I walked right up to it and lit me a match.
—You burned it down?
He gives the matches a nervous little toss, looks
down at his bottle and takes a long, slow drink.
—Naw. I had me a smoke and thought it over.
I took a piss and walked home.
—Called 'er off, huh. Well. At least you made it home.
—Yeah. It was only about fifty feet to the house.
CHRISTOPHER WARNER grew up in the American Midwest but spent much of the last
decade living in Australia, East Africa, and parts of Western Europe. He currently resides
in central Illinois, where he writes and works for the railroad.