A visit to the Art Farm, a sighting of the constellation Ardea (the great heron)

Ben and I walked out to the country road to look at the sky, clear and full of stars, the bright half-moon behind the trees on one side and across the road endless corn. As we have been driving through Nebraska and Iowa the last few days we have seen the husks dry and curl up to reveal flashes of yellow. I want to ask: does living among all this corn make you want to eat it more, or less? but I’m afraid that might be a rude question. The corn has been talked about so much, maybe it’s better not to mention it at all. So I’ll try to avoid calling attention to the rows, the tunnels of corn stalks, the bristles and waves, the long, low land (this used to be ocean?), and any discussion of where all this corn is going, and why, and what machines are needed to harvest it, and the livestock it implies, and what harm the whole industry is doing to the land, our bodies, leave it!

“What constellations do you know?” Ben asked. I pointed out the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. I pointed out the Milky Way and a red star that might be Mars. It had rained the day before, a real Nebraska storm that flashed red lightning in the back of my eyelids and washed out all sign that any world existed outside the windows of the car. The road was still soft under our shoes. The enormous silhouette of a heron passed over us, its seven-foot wingspan black against the stars. I dreamed all night of the sound of its wings.

art farm, text in the floating barn

This weekend I visited the art farm in Nebraska with my poet friends, Ben and Josh. Josh is there doing a residency and I hope I can do that next summer, too. There is a room full of presses, linotype machine and who knows what else, but it was walled off a long time ago and all you can do is circle around it, looking in the windows longingly. In a dusty corridor between piles of lumber and broken saws, I met a woman who was setting type for some letterpress bookmarks. She’s starting a new publishing project that sounds really cool. Later, I got to hear the most hilarious, amazing karaoke rendition of Psycho Killer, in a bar called Don’t Care, on a deep-starry night in the middle of the cornfields. I said I wouldn’t mention the cornfields. I’ve mentioned them! Although karaoke was marred by (being karaoke & by) the headache I got from drinking Ben’s special “Nebraska Farm Hammer,” recipe below.

Nebraska Farm Hammer*:
take a glass
add a bunch of whiskey (probably bourbon)
some lemonade
some Sprite
ice (if available, preferably from thick&unfiltered water)

* copyright ben clark ©

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