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flat, isn’t it, said my father
as we drove through on my first day
I didn’t know what he meant –
in the backseat I could feel
a bounce for every pothole

a John Deere tractor
& while you glance at the fields
a deer hits your car

the way things vibrate in the summer,
rippling in the heat – you
yourself might be a mirage
if you stand too long in the sun


the plants that grow wild
at the edges of the fields

the plants that take root
by the sides of the roads

dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace
plants with beautiful names

uproot them with your face turned
before the pollen makes you sneeze.


A water tower, a searchlight, a silo.
Occasionally, fireworks. A helicopter.

None of the country roads have names
State Roads 26, North 50 West, 51.

I felt anonymous driving them –
then I passed a tractor –

the driver was in my math class at school


What is the difference
between a farm and a garden?

What is the difference
between a city and a town?


I never saw a tornado,
only heard one overhead.

Used to worry about who could see me
if I dropped a jug of milk in Walmart.

The rabbits would eat our eggplant
each year, before it even flowered.

Birds landed and pecked
at the snow in our yard.


A gas station. A gate.
A wheelbarrow. A barn.

A giant half of a tin can
I’m told is a Quonset hut.

Five-way stop
at Taft Road. We move on.


You can describe a place
without knowing it.

At recess in March I choked
because the air tasted like fertilizer.

What’s the difference
between breathing a place

and being suffocated by it?


In kindergarten I formed the thick soil
of our yard into modeling clay.

My eyes watered when I played
with soybean seeds at my father’s work.

Later I wore gloves when I tested
the pH of soils. I won an award at school.


The moon rising over our backyard
sun setting over the cornfield in front

The one thing I always thought
was beautiful – those brilliant shades of red

Flat country holds the sunset
like a baking tray. Absorbs sinking rays.


This is not a love letter
but there is love in it.

Surabhi Balachander grew up in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. She earned her B.A. at Stanford University and is currently a PhD student in English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. Her poems appear in The Wanderer and jmww, among other places.

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