“The Silo”

Silo number nine looked like the Tin Man’s head, bearded with the shed that bristles

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The fog clung to the roof like a laurel, wreathed with six dollars more the next Friday.

Walking down the corn was a grown man’s job, and

Your brother’s thin ribs could use the padding. Yours too,

If you were careless enough to look down.

 

Hunched beneath the corrugated roof, nostrils stuffed up with the

Sweet stickiness of rotting corn crisped into milky sours,

You and your brother tossed picks by their worn handles into the sleeping mounds

Pitching them back to each other like boomerangs.

 

Grain shuddered, the silo groaned

The crusted patches beneath your feet

Ripped. Dropped you.

Shackled you to the triangled gridlock.

Your screams bounced off the sides of the silo

Gulped back by mechanical shushings of grain

Funneling into truck beds.

 

They didn’t tell you there were harnesses in the storage shed.

They didn’t tell you a body can drown in a solid.

They didn’t tell you how fast the mountain would swallow him.

 

You had to hug your brother’s body, or the rescue squad couldn’t jam

The grain tube around your shoulders. Couldn’t haul you out.

Six hours, and all you wanted was them to

Shove the plastic bucket over your head again so you couldn’t see

The pits in his face from kernels biting.

 

You’d think five hundred fifty thousand

Would be enough to pay for a headstone.

Hell, you’d think the two hundred grand would be enough for something

Better than those cockeyed red flowers you jabbed into his grave. Damn things

Flutter too much, thrash like his hand above the grain line.

He never got to make varsity.

 

At home your mother drags her fingers through popcorn kernels,

Listens to their dry rustle as they slip against each other.

Those men with soft hands tell you Haasbaech is closing,

Tell you that they’re educating workers, increasing safety awareness, and that they

Have mailed very strong letters.

Your mother’s room is littered with picket signs and sleeping pills.

You went to work the next week anyway.

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Alexandra Villamore is an undergraduate at UC Riverside.

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