Joyce Carol Oates
Old fears in dead of night
like lozenges
stuck dry
on the tongue.
Wakened numb
as Novocain.
In dead of night ask
for God’s sake what
did you miss. You know
goddamned well you
have missed what
they hid from you.
The lost, the loney.
You knew them too late.
Dying too soon.
The young uncle you’d loved most.
Killed himself to free
his spirit, trapped like a genie
in a Coke bottle.
Never knew why. How
was a secret too whispered
in the cornstalks.
Oh that was terrible! Just—
like that, in a family—
you never forget.

It’s the quiet
after gunshots you remember.

Misshapen ears of corn,
wizened faces. By November
you could see them
seeing you along the rows
of stalks.
You ran from the faces,
hid your eyes. Gut-kick,
spine-cold, sick
with fear of what
had no name.


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