My aunt, several greats ago, burned herself alive in a barn.
There is a single photograph of her. She is looking off to the left, perhaps distracted by a hawk or a deer. Some creature she knew she must teach her students about in the coming weeks.
Beneath the town, water flows through limestone caves to the Mississippi, where the riverbed is studded with the still-living, now dead, hurled from the cliffs above. The water is shallow; the descent is swift.
They are always low on chalk.
It takes several months for her to unpack the town’s immigrant hate, fold it along the creases, and place it under the shirts and stockings from St. Louis, as one would before a wedding.
Each eye of her glasses is the same size as each curl on her head – a Medusa of observation.
Her students are kept home. She asks no questions, listening only to the constant sound of threshing, the moon low and still, the harvest, the houses, and stoves. The moon rising, and still, the bales, the harvest.
This hand is full of grief. This hand cuts off the other.