Attractions by John Allman



North Dakota

Adjusting Jay’s binoculars: blotched sugar beets bouncing out of trucks, squashed like squirrels back home; robins lacking an orange vest, stripped to basic black, piercing a stingy grass, veering among the reeds in Kelly’s Slough, half-risen grebes dragging lobate toes. Flatness. Escape. A row of shelterbelt trees fingering the wind. We pass huge fields of sunflowers, their faces drained of oil; road dust rising from phantom bison, air dry as the syllables of taciturn men in coffee shops, towns with one barber shop, a Bible reading-room. Jay steers his dented Dodge and waves at half-boarded buildings last year’s stranded motorists tried to reach, leaving their ice-clogged cars, their lips blue. We enter a grain elevator, high walls a combustible dust once slid down from a farmer’s chute. Blown. Bankrupt. This land like a Lakota shield spilling light, the Red River swollen each spring; the gnarled branches swinging around, tumbling home.