Dakota Mystery, 10 May 1994


Joyce Carol Oates

Above North Dakota seeing the ghastly dun-colored earth
               flat & dissolving into the horizon like expelled breath
descending, Northwest flight 151,
               Minneapolis to Fargo, wind buffeting the plane &
below, rising in rectangles - “property” -
               farmland bounded by roads ruler-straight & absurd
each rectangle interchangeable with all others
               horror of mud-rivers, leafless trees
& the sky bleached out, gone

The emptiness inside the atom:

Swiftly descending, the shadow seeping out of the earth
               rising to meet us & swallow us
& terror like a fork striking glass
               the fine crystalline vibration
too subtle to shatter glass ringing in our ears

                              As we file out of the plane a voice calls out
                                             Is this the eclipse?
                              & another voice replies, cheerful matter-of-fact
                              That was the eclipse. It’s all over.