Ars Poetica

What I remember about the cornfields

     is their smell, how I knew I was home

when their sulfur smoked into my nose.

     The rock I dug from the fields, I palmed

in my dirty hand, spun it through the air,

     purpling my sister’s jaw. She ran. I hid

behind the open front door, hushed

     there for hours, pretending not to hear

my father’s shouts jangling the door

     frame. When I did sneak out & peek

from the window, my mother was waving

     her hands at the police. Strangers

were hollering my name in the streets.

     I inched back behind the door, hundreds

of chemical punishments crop-dusting

     through my skull. I admit I did hear

when my mother wailed into the phone,

     pacing right by me: He must be in the fields.

I watched dusk eat the sky, watched

     the cornfields shuck the neighbors out

empty-handed. From the door’s slight

     crack, I watched my mother come inside

& slump against my father’s chest,

     watched as he held her with one hand,

easing the door shut with the other.

     Maybe I would do it all over again

just to study how her face muddled,

     watch how it split & split & split again

as she yanked my arm into a hug,

     wrenching a tight handful of my hair.

You stupid boy, she hissed. Stupid,

           stupid boy, kissing every inch of my face.

Brandon Thurman
Brandon Thurman is the author of the chapbook Snake Handling (Quarterly West, 2018). His poetry can be found in Nashville Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, RHINO, The Blueshift Journal, and others. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with his husband and son. You can find him online at or on Twitter @bthurman87.