Time manifests differently in South Dakota. The form it most often prefers is the shape of corn that stretches in rows across every direction, everywhere. You could drive for twenty minutes in any direction in any part of any town in the state, and eventually you would encounter the odd, liminal space of dirt-torn roads splitting down soon-to-be-ethanol corn by the mile.
This particular configuration of time means that it’s hard to write. Writing, I think, more or less operates on urgency, especially poetry. It is in the specific, mercurial alignment of global catastrophe, personal apotheosis, and regional disquietude that yields some of my own poetry, and poetry seeks to transcribe this volatile conjunction in maybe a few stanzas, several lines.
I find it more difficult than ever to capture these fleeting intersections in time now that the terminal condition of senior year has come upon me. That, and the stifling rural character of where I live (South Dakota), has done peculiar things to my grasp of time. What does impending global catastrophe matter when I must ask teachers for their recommendations? Why track the passage of my personal apotheosis when my general application awaits amending? Any “regional disquietude” wallows already in so many tonnes of corn, that I couldn’t bother to excavate what drama remains even without the pressures of high school.
I think perhaps corn and high school both foment a sort of lateral myopia when it comes to time; it grows harder to see on either side the gradual progression of events. Technology has helped somewhat, but it has also harmed in equal measure when so much digital content is designed to pacify consumers rather than inform and present the troubling events of the “real world.” Then again, what is real? Sometimes heartbreak is no less critical than the assassination of a distant former president. Sometimes the making of a few new friends trumps climate change, and sometimes a difficult discussion with your mother carries more weight than even extinction.
There is of course a certain obligation to pander towards apocalypse, but personal armageddon works just as well. Yet, I have discovered that when problems writhe around me with staggering indifference, the only distinction lies in my own interest, my own appetites and discoveries. To track every event worth considering to any degree would represent a sort of ego-suicide, and so instead I look to that which startles me, that which bursts forth with exquisite abandon between rows and rows of corn.
Heidi Pan is a student at Harrisburg High School. Her work has received recognition at the national level from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Previously, Heidi has attended both the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Kenyon Summer Writing Group.