Downstate

By Laura Bandy

 

We’re headed downstate and Natalie’s driving, she insisted, a Chicago girl who’s driven across Paris, Tokyo, the left side of London streets like a pro, so she can handle this, and I wake from a doze to find us weaving on my country road, corn high on either side and Natalie gabbling to herself, “It’s so quiet and there’s no light but moon and nothing’s moving and who knows? Who knows what’s going to come across the road, maybe a cow, a cow in the road and what’s in those fields, could be a zombie with a machete, I can’t see for shit,” and she blows the horn just to have some noise, then I start speaking softly to her like I would a skittish colt while I’m thinking of the girl they found in the fields right around here when I was young and what had been done to her, the condition of the body, her sister who married a close family friend soon after, her eyes at the wedding, dead, how he took her away to Houston that night, how that marriage was threshed when she came back years later like she couldn’t help herself, left husband, children, got in her car one day to go to work and just kept going until she hit Cairo, Illinois where she stopped, bought a soda pop at Lefty’s and decided to climb back inside a curse. Then I think of my sister for a minute, my twin, but only for a minute because that’s all I can stand, like hands around my throat to imagine, how I would howl forever at the rustling of the stalks. That pain feels like it belongs here, prairie madness, accidents with tractors, girls dragged into fields on nights just like this and I’m still talking to Natalie who’s calmed some, I tell her we’re five miles out at most and she flinches at a coyote’s cry, “Werewolves,” she whispers, “Ghosts and goblins, I think this place is haunted,” and I answer Midwest stoic, “There’s no ghosts.”


Laura Bandy received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006. From 2009-2013 she attended the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, where she received the Joan Johnson Poetry Award. She has had work published in Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, The Cossack Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, After Hours, Inscape Online and Pithead Chapel, and has poems forthcoming in Triggerfish Critical Review, Sin Fronteras, and Manticore: Hybrid Writing from Hybrid Identities. She hails from Jacksonville, Illinois, home of the Ferris wheel.