In a self-storage unit, three kids
turn drain cleaner, fertilizer
and duct tape into methamphetamine.
They pass the pipe, a light bulb, clockwise
as if they were the timekeepers
of the new century.
For the rest of us, it's the month of charcoal,
crop dust and disappearances.
My father dismantles a field of corn
while I smooth beads of caulking along
the old dairy barn's window panes,
as if anything could keep the wind out.
Not far from here, the bones of a mastodon,
the same age as the kids when it died
of a crushed spine, was found in 1926
by a tenant farmer who charged admission
and strung up lights over the pit
until the city council shut him down.
The kids cough up my father's chaff
as the wind carries sheets to the pit
they have walked here to see. The boy
with a mouth like a smashed piano
can't stop talking about black holes while
the girl with ravens tattooed on her back
dreams the Ice Age has come again
to our fields and that our distant combine,
nosing dust on the horizon,
is the last animal of its kind
to walk the vast talus.
Through a window I see skeletons
of tiny animals I can't guess the skin of.
My uncle thinks the barn has toxic mold.
As afterlives go, it isn't a bad place:
soft silt, dirty feathers and stock stalls
whose stanchions are burnished orange
by cow oils and rain.
I can smell soured straw and wonder
if I'm really meant to be keeping
what's inside in. Or if the fields
have ached all season to be cleared
so they could be free to inhale diesel fumes
and exhale wild carrots and arrowheads.
The boy with eyes like chips of dusk
says there is a barn he knows
that they can squat out for the night,
which is coming quick, the sky
turning the color of flint.
I fold up my ladder; my father
flicks on his high beams.
I wash husks from my hair
as the kids steal into our barn
and pass the light bulb in a circle,
which illuminates decades of dust
stirred by the wind whistling through
the window panes. They don't
even notice they are sitting
in a room full of bones until the girl
picks up a possum skull
and press the disc of its eye socket
up to her own.
All night, the three will stammer
reasons for the world to end.
When the bulb is cashed,
the boy will watch the ravens
on the girl's back wheel
to the left, like a countdown
he didn't mean to trigger.