“… woman’s body like a metal safe — 

these flatlands …”

Our “Small Things, Partial Cures” theme continues with a remarkable poem by Ellen Stone. You can download and print a full-size broadside by clicking on the first version below — or scroll down to read in plain format.

His Word in Rural Illinois

By Ellen Stone


Red-winged blackbirds peal in the slough

of demigods, back-door bickering —

woman’s body like a metal safe —

these flatlands. Such jubilation

for the plow. This Limestone Baptist,

small heralding here in the midland

while roadside fields dry, waiting.

My rapist, sorrows, my abortions —

constituent policing while our girls’

loves, boyfriends, & assailants,

teeth glinting with easy answers — Baby!

Hold off the hounds who leer & promise.

O, gatherer of the daily bread, psalmist,

leave me full of God’s mercy.

This church tells me unborn babies are safe.

Fields blanket the rich horizon, but

the combination’s held in their small hands.

Daughters, their girlhood lusting —

Baby, you are so beautiful, come here!

These boyfriends, molesters, my fears …

Where is the holy word proclaimed?

Who begat my girlhood lusting,

woman-self, my miscarriages, babies?

That a woman can find safety, too?


This poem is also available, in slightly different form, on Medium.


Ellen Stone’s recent poems have appeared in Passages North, The Collagist, The Citron Review, The Museum of Americana, and Fifth Wednesday. She is the author of a collection, The Solid Living World.



True stories, honestly.

Potato field image: MaxPixels.