Remembering Iowa



Iowa Corn Field, 1959/60

For Keith Vaughan, R. I. P.

Learning of your suicide,
The customary calm of your ending
In that methodical way,
The remorseless advance of the enemy
You could not stop gaining on you,

I look up
At your paintings of Iowa,
Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Omaha,
Remembering my own journeys
Through that unpopulated landscape
West of Chicago – unpopulated
Because she wasn’t with me – my notes

So similar to those scratched
In the margins of your drawings.
Indelible as if it was them
I travelled through
Not the real thing, that emptiness
Spilling its way to the Pacific.

You observed:
‘Red oxide barns with silver pinnacles’
‘Pink pigs bursting from black earth like truffles’
‘Ochre sticks of corn stubble’
‘Space and sun’

And approaching Omaha:
‘For sale – Night Crawlers’
‘The care of expectation; of probing contacts’
‘Extraordinary prevalence of mortuaries,
Neon-lit and glittering like cinemas.’

What you drew
With the black barns and white timbered houses
Reminding you of Essex,
Snow patches and corn stooks,
Silos erect on the countryside like penises
The starched white
Of fences protective of loneliness

I am in Iowa again,
Landlocked and frozen
In the numbing death of the spirit –
You knew before your own,
How many forms death takes.

Alan Ross



If you have any comments on this article, please enter them below

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.