Silo number nine looked like the Tin Man’s head, bearded with the shed that bristles
The fog clung to the roof like a laurel, wreathed with six dollars more the next Friday.
Walking down the corn was a grown man’s job, and
Your brother’s thin ribs could use the padding. Yours too,
If you were careless enough to look down.
Hunched beneath the corrugated roof, nostrils stuffed up with the
Sweet stickiness of rotting corn crisped into milky sours,
You and your brother tossed picks by their worn handles into the sleeping mounds
Pitching them back to each other like boomerangs.
Grain shuddered, the silo groaned
The crusted patches beneath your feet
Ripped. Dropped you.
Shackled you to the triangled gridlock.
Your screams bounced off the sides of the silo
Gulped back by mechanical shushings of grain
Funneling into truck beds.
They didn’t tell you there were harnesses in the storage shed.
They didn’t tell you a body can drown in a solid.
They didn’t tell you how fast the mountain would swallow him.
You had to hug your brother’s body, or the rescue squad couldn’t jam
The grain tube around your shoulders. Couldn’t haul you out.
Six hours, and all you wanted was them to
Shove the plastic bucket over your head again so you couldn’t see
The pits in his face from kernels biting.
You’d think five hundred fifty thousand
Would be enough to pay for a headstone.
Hell, you’d think the two hundred grand would be enough for something
Better than those cockeyed red flowers you jabbed into his grave. Damn things
Flutter too much, thrash like his hand above the grain line.
He never got to make varsity.
At home your mother drags her fingers through popcorn kernels,
Listens to their dry rustle as they slip against each other.
Those men with soft hands tell you Haasbaech is closing,
Tell you that they’re educating workers, increasing safety awareness, and that they
Have mailed very strong letters.
Your mother’s room is littered with picket signs and sleeping pills.
You went to work the next week anyway.
Alexandra Villamore is an undergraduate at UC Riverside.