Night in a Cornfield During the Great Depression

by Margaux Novak

The nights before were the worst.
Nana told me he had come home,
too late, couldn’t stand straight.
He told her the house smelled like cooking,
punched a wall on the way to the bathroom
she decided she didn’t have time to decide anymore
she’d locked him in, jammed a chair under the doorknob,
stacked an arm-full of books on top, prayed to
those authors, hold him in.

She grabbed her children out of sleep
her oldest daughter understood
no questions
scooped up baby, and they ran to the back,
him still pissing and yelling,
hadn’t noticed the door
If I could just get us out into the cornfield,
I knew we could hide, knew he’d give up,
forget we had been there.

Barefoot, they pattered
over sharp soil rocks, felt the slap of dew wet hems.
She started counting steps, weighing them against
remembered bruises she hoped her children
didn’t know about, knew she’d have things
to explain, like how the dirt came
to run her blue dress brown
dirt clinging to her newly shaved legs—it’s strange
the things you ‘member about pain, Sugar.

She told me how corn stalk leaves cut her arms
as she ran by, how she hid her tears,
murmured sweet nothings and once
they reached a far out row, the yelling stopped.
She zippered baby’s footie pajamas,
laid them all down, tucked them out
in that cold April night.
Little slip of a moon, shadowless,
the children slept.


[Check out Margaux’s back porch advice]