Before my uncle raced down the hill from his farm to ours to stop a fire when we weren’t home, before he lifted and threw a barrel of oil out of the burning shed. Yanked the garden hose off the spigot. Before Rural Route 1 became 121st Street, before one farmer warned us about the aliens, another knocked up a fourteen-year-old girl from Myspace, another tried to order a mail-order bride. He went to her. He came back alone. One neighbor asked my uncle to watch his dogs. He had a job to drive to. Fifty bucks to be the night guard at the WalMart in Brookings, SD, on Christmas day, eighty miles away. He showed my uncle the badge. Before the great wind-power turbines and the hog confinements and the last three Christmases without snow. Before the snowstorm that toppled the chimney, the cold that froze the toilet water upstairs, the short-cut-taking Greyhound that went off this road in a blizzard and half the passengers stayed at our place and half at my aunt and uncle’s. One passenger traveled with a gun. One’s right nostril was full of snot. “She can’t stop looking at me, that one.” Before they renamed these roads to make us think 911 would bring help. The snow the snow the snow. The story of the farmhand who hung himself in the granary. Before dad wrote the last mortgage check to his father-in-law. No, mom wrote every check. In town, she’d drive my three sisters and me past the house they had built and sold a year later to buy her father’s farm. Dad needed to farm. His dad farmed, his brother farmed, his brother-in-law farmed, his other brother-in-law, too. “I should’ve never signed the papers with him.” I dreamed of cable T.V. I wanted popsicles with girls other than my sisters. Five miles west, dad slowed down to watch them airlift a woman shot with a B.B. gun by another woman. It’s always over a man. A half a mile east is the spot that became the spot where we passed grandpa’s Blazer in the snow, in the ditch. We didn’t see him. Before this and before I started to wonder if he had been drunk, if his heart burst, if he was driving to my uncle’s farm or ours, if he crashed and died or crashed and then died. Before I questioned what would have been different if we had seen him and why we didn’t. I’ve thought real hard at times about silence. Before my sisters found his old brown bottles buried in the grove and twenty years later I found out he had landed in Japan “after they bombed” and didn’t want to talk. Before I stopped being afraid of brown bottles and what was inside. Before I lied down on this road with my boyfriend, a day before seventeen, and fumbled my first kiss. The next day he told me about his first kiss, how she had raised her lips out like the arms of a scared outfielder and how he dumped her the next day. Only I could’ve written this simile. Two years later he had a baby with my friend whose sister pulled the trigger of that B.B. gun. Before I left and left and left. Before I returned. Before I returned, I didn’t think about memory or how I dislike it. I have no good reason. I work against it like a farmer works against the land, but his reasons aren’t questioned. He tills and tills and cultivates and sprays and the chemicals and the hail and the wind is so goddamn but they never say it and they plow and burn and I don’t think much about it. I have nothing that shouldn’t be remembered and I had a good life there. Here. There. Yet I write and talk in a way that works against it, memory, even if it is as innocent as the reason corn sprouts after hitting the dirt.

Carrie Oeding’s poetry has appeared in Third Coast, The Greensboro Review, South Dakota ReviewBest New Poets 2005, and is forthcoming in The Colorado Review in summer, 200