River and farmland at sunset (or sunrise)

Letter to America by Bethany Schultz Hurst

One Poem

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The Birds are Always in the Corn

on the way to see the palace made of
corn and rye and sourdock

I dreamed I was inside it
rearranging the sensibly upholstered

and you
were there in your long wool coat
half-assuring me that you
                                                 weren’t bored

and as always we both kept on
wearing all our clothes           and so I’m still

driving the speed limit along this
                                     glistening belt

napping when I have to on gravel roads

off the highway next to the warm
golden grass that waves

over empty silos
                         whose aging missiles
the prairie has mostly given up

sunlight floods
             the sparkling ditches and
washed-out roads       
                                     the towns

I am re-routed from with names
I might have given
                                     my daughter

is it too much to ask


why all the flags
                         are at half-mast

detoured past slumped sandbags
and houses submerged
                                     in muddy skirts

I am ashamed to have been so slow

to figure all this beauty           this shining
reservoir trembling the dam

a disaster                    

so slow to recall that over and over our buildings
have been wrecked

             to be suspicious of this golden
                                                             mythic light

of such bounty that can mount a palace
made from surplus
                         and clad in cob and husk

when will
                         the birds descend

and strip its murals bare

                         curtain the windows
in their dark feathers
                                                 in a different

             life I would be dreaming
                                                             of unbuttoning your coat

                         dreaming of the swollen bankless river

                                                                         down which my empty dress

                                     would float




Bethany Schultz HurstBethany Schultz Hurst is the author of Miss Lost Nation, winner of the Anhinga Poetry Prize and finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2015 and in journals such as Ecotone, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, Narrative, and Ploughshares. A recipient of a literary arts fellowship through the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she is an associate professor at Idaho State University.

Header photo by Greg Brave, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Bethany Schultz Hurst by Tagen Towsley Baker.



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