Poetry: Imagining My Sister in North Dakota by Naomi Anna Kimbell

In “Imagining My Sister in North Dakota,” a sister envisions her sister’s troubled reality through an intricate and profound prose poem; a reality that says “you are very small, only a blip in the field.”


Imagining My Sister in North Dakota

She lived in a trailer with thin silver walls coated with ice in the winter and sweat in the summer. The door was cardboard, taped and painted, and the roof peeled back in paper curls of birch bark like a lost thing found in the woods, homing to earth in folds and sheets of rust. In springtime, she squatted outside on the hard flat dirt. Her shoes were thin, and her legs were cold, but the sun warmed her back. She heard locusts/there were no locusts. In her memory, she thinks of the sound as locusts in the same way she remembers the door was cardboard, but really it was a regular door, and the sound was just that buzzing background static children hear when they’re bored, a kind of radio emanation, a bandwidth that says you are very small, only a blip in the field—You are nothing, says the sky. You are nothing, says the sun. You are nothing, you are nothing, you are nothing, says the moon—and the darkness says it too. It scared her, so she tagged the sound with bugs because it couldn’t have been sky. No lightning flash. No storm. No sundog. Cracks in the dirt filled with water, pushing up and out in bright beady rinds, pearling the earth in blisters around her feet, growing wider, rising higher, edging closer—Swallow, it said. Swallow.—Water never rose from the ground this way, but she remembers that it did, and sometimes she remembers resting at the bottom of a hole, wet and alone, a shining little bundle in a puddle, while her parents, one of them the father we shared, looked down at her body from above—It’s better like this.

Naomi Anna Kimbell

Naomi Anna Kimbell earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana in 2008. Her writing has been published in The Iowa Review, Black Warrior Review, The Baltimore Review, The Indiana Review, Crazyhorse, Calyx, Pithead Chapel, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and other journals and anthologies.

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