I tell people about cornfields
when they ask about Missouri.
I like to give people what they want.
I give them what they expect:
corn stalks, breaking sky.
But in Missouri corn stopped breaking sky
a long, long time ago.
When I was a little girl the corn stalks
changed from season to season,
springing those extra ears,
--the bloody ones Van Gogh threw away
and smeared to paint his self portraits --
getting shorter and neater.
I tell people I lived 5 minutes from Monsanto.
That evil doesn't taste so bad up close.
That even, it looks like gold.
That Missouri is this interesting place
where things like corn and Monsanto happen.
I live in cities with big names now
full of boys like me whose haircuts change
from season to season like corn stalks.
We all live 5 minutes from barber shops.
I tell people I go through boys
from season to season
that New York is this interesting place
where my dreams are going to come true.
When New York people ask about Missouri
my mouth clenches up
and I keep talking about corn
like I'm chewing on it,
start laughing about coming from a place
where not a whole lot happens.
Isn't it funny:
this is why I moved to cities with big names.
To feel full.
In the middle of the show-me state
you can drive route 66 for hours
catch nothing but mutant corn
then finally a ghost town
with nuclear waste tucked underneath--
like a gravestone
but a whole town.
The power plant melted down
some decades ago
and they just folded it like corn stalks.
I haven't figured out
where my electricity in New York comes from.
But I sure do keep the lights on
at strange hours.
It feels harder in my mouth
to make words for emptiness than for corn,
tell people 12 years I spent in a place
not a whole lot happened,
that there was this state I lived in
covered in strip malls and cash crops,
that doesn't make the news
until something violent happens
like Lewis and Clark
or the slave compromise
or a rape case
I tell people in the Midwest
we had beautiful leaves,
that stayed around for a week and a half
and wild tornadoes
that were always a couple towns over
and the pope came in 1996.
Missouri is right next to the only fault
that's in the middle of the country,
once made the Mississippi run backwards.
A couple times it woke me up
like that jolt that happens
between a dream and falling.
It's hard to explain what makes New York
feel a different kind of empty
than the dead nuclear towns on route 66.
Less like spent waste
and more like fresh and lonely atoms.
People ask me if I could fall in love here.
In Missouri, love and I never talked.
In New York, we had a falling out.
Walking is a particular,
controlled way of falling.
In New York I walk all over
to avoid spending dead hours underground,
on the train.
Walking in New York becomes
about carrying absence,
about the spaces that
make the outlines of my fingers and toes.
Like I don't remember her arms or his warmth
but I remember the cold air after they left.
And I don't know what stories I told but
I can feel the ringing in my ears.
And I spent several minutes
not sending her that text.
In New York we are too busy for each other,
and sometimes too afraid
to admit that we are not.
I never said any fussy good byes
just waved and printed my boarding pass.
The toner ran dry that day so I printed it in red
but it still scanned all right.
I don't think that state will remember me;
we're trying to forget about each other
which is easy because we were never in love.
It was just mutually tolerant.
The language I have for love now
is complex and political
but it still doesn't have words
for something that is boring
Like the time I spend lying in bed
even when the bright lights and eyes
tell me to wake the fuck up.
Somewhere between ordering
expensive coffee in small town Indiana
and expensive coffee in Chelsea
I hypothesize that
there's a roughly equivalent proportion
of good and shitty things
around the country
and in New York all of it
is packed real tight
like mutant corn,
instead of being stretched across a long highway yawn.
That the empty is approximately equal,
that zero is equal to zero,
that here it feels like acupuncture in my eyes for days
and in Missouri it stretches over my whole body,
for 12 years.