Driving Though Iowa by Nancy Hatch Woodward

Driving Though Iowa

A rage of heat
rolling across the Midwest. Corn and soybeans
thatched and thirsty, mile after mile.
When I was a child in Nebraska, my father said
there were at least 50 things you could do
with a corn cob: Hollow it out
for a pipe, dress it up
like a baby doll, use it
to scratch your back.
We’d stick in toothpicks and attach note cards
for sails in afternoon ponds,
gentle breezes launching
boat races as we ran alongside,
under a bottomless cornflower sky.

Now even the snakes and mice have abandoned the fields.
We’re told these droughts will come more regularly,
portents of a coming Martian landscape.

I remember my father using corn cobs to smoke
our Thanksgiving turkey and
carving them into bottle stoppers
for Uncle Roy’s corn liquor jugs, from which we were allowed
one significant swig on Christmas Day.
You can make at least 50 things
from a corn cob, Dad would tell us.
If you had some.

by Nancy Hatch Woodward

Editor’s Note: The lack of something can arrive very quickly in the midst of abundance. This poem’s last line reverberates back through the beginning, forcing one to reconsider the start as the end.


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