And you, too, love the Prairies, flying voyager of a summer hour

— Marcus Merritt

that time of faded evening light when the taillights of traffic

first stand out. All the Earth’s a temple here where sparseness

renders demographic data’s implication of a calm collective’s

sure awareness above the governing stress of our lives deceptive

This specific present overwhelms by way of arrogance, pushes

flat everything leading up to it. The rest area’s interpretive sign

mentions seas of grass but that as if they were in the past

while in South Dakota the sea grass flows in the ditches

between highways and fields of sunflowers. Too far east and nobody

grows sunflowers. Grain elevators so far away they get a little

bit of sky in front of them, they get all monumental

and blue-shifted above the sparse trees. Highway sign devotional

And the sky is never a static fixture is always passing through and close

enough to stroke. The power of a sole column of dust stirred up by some equipment

on the other side of the interstate to bifurcate or lend this one spot only a sense of event,

reconnection to the seriousness of history. Where the BP sign

off the exit appears resplendent green sunburst halo but it’s the experience

of living it, the way it’s enlarged by slant of sun by car speakers by Springsteen’s

coyote howl by awareness of class-conscious non-economic transcendence

The world’s equipment grinds away, churning information

tossing it off into the air loose, loosened. Sometimes there’s just a church

nothing else not even a dogma or a pet cemetery because

government is a wave and people are the medium. That autonomous

dust again. Abstract concepts seem to exist mainly to give people

with no shared local context something to talk about such is the strength

of our desire to be comfortable and share in our comfortableness

All messages come from somewhere and the sunset moves noticeably

to the south as it burns its golden aura around an automobile-shaped cloud

resisting with its beauty its passage through time. And then you get there

and it’s all soccer goals evenly distributed among the fields by the highway

The flattening the expanse accomplishes includes conspicuous markers of economic origins

because wealth doesn’t mean anything it’s just something that happens

while we search for alternative ways to fund our schools. Politeness as a form

of social control. Did those pretty yellow flowers disappear from the ditch

or am I just not in the right spot? But none of this is real Prairie anymore,

and it couldn’t exist without semi-trucks. The destructive power of suddenly being

anachronistic is not what was once believed, turns out invisibility is the most effective

preservation strategy so think of statistical analysis as heat-vision goggles

Along with the requisite sadness it’s hard not to feel pride about the inevitable triumph

of tomorrow when you pass an old boarded-up gas station, Miller Lite

ads taped to the windows faded to a dusty purple, transparent. Is this landscape

a performance? Can we consider our roads a natural resource to be exploited

more than just a social necessity? Deer are suicidal. It’s the only explanation.

Clouds leave shadows like columns like whale’s teeth and irrigation lines bound

through the corn fields like Chinese dragons, ribbed skeletons

of industrial transformation and in the morning the mist lies across the brown country

like an announcement. Civilization ran out of wilderness sometime in the 1870s

But still we keep the game going, surrounding our towns with housing developments

where the lack of trees seems conspicuous, unnatural. They named that

new apartment complex Platinum Heights built it like a massive square fort

unsure in its desire to be a part of something apart from everything a thing to be a part of

The first crinkling of dried leaves piled up after the car sat on the street all day

Divisions create vacuums within what was before the fullness of northern

expanse, soothing what once irritably forced lone church buildings

up out of the earth like pimples an urge to burst and then imperceptible

but quick leveling back into what surrounded it. Prepare to Meet Thy God.

Dust or fog. And so autumn is wet when it comes, the clouds low

and flat to the horizon, a mirrored world in suspension, a towed long vehicle

Moisture cascades, a flowing film up my windshield, objects reject definition

and become atmosphere like I would, stretch out my body a fur of yellow tufts

and lay across the sunflower fields to be no longer a consciousness but the expanse

or the ancient echo of my child voice in an empty grain bin. Some of these trucks

must be refrigerated. A brand-new mountain range off to the west every day

bloated and blown up. There’s a billboard depicting the glorious flatness of cornfields

which is obscured by the overgrown cornfield it rests in. And in the morning, just like mushrooms,

sudden water towers, not thoughts themselves but forms of thinking

structures that have proven effective or easily duplicated. Across the next field

a procession of cows one brown one trotting in that surprising way they do so the processional

as the most basic aspect of social existence and the mounted signal that calls it into being

Like landscape utopia is best experienced from afar where the spaces in between people

can get averaged out and social unrest rarely erupts because we’re two thousand

miles from authority and our skepticism is directed squarely there a cry bleating out

into the chaos of the sunset. The clouds like etched glass. The revolutionary potential

of politeness. The burnt longing to be left alone to set one’s own speed limit. Trees

like skunks rest peaceful on the side of the road, rife with allegorical presence. Under more

consistently gray skies combines shit out useless gristle into a uniformly tan world

Some reds linger but lack vividness. Without skin, animals glisten. A jet-black semi

blows by, in gray letters “My Last Ride” airbrushed on the back of the cab

The eye that would divide skies like these into quadrants may be aesthetic or authoritarian

and in both cases a reaction to ineffability as a felt function of enormity. Is that feeling

of power got when passing under an overpass at the exact same moment

that a truck barrels overhead a sympathetic exercise? While off in the distance

peppered across the color-drained fields hay bales stalk frozen, a flock of velociraptors in portrait

The lights of Truck-Towne shine through the morning haze as we yet again mistake

an ongoing process for an end. It’s not that we want to linger.

It’s just that it would be very uncomfortable to have to move.

Read more from Issue No. 12 or share on Twitter.