Joe Betz

Red-Winged Blackbird


On corn tassels, dew. On our jeans, dew.
From his lips a boy wipes sweat thick
as pickling salt. Today no one is resting,
not even the sun high and burning like
a cross in misanthropic minds. On the radio,
love. On our minds, love. In the field
we’re slipping wet hands in corn until we
walk slow as clouds plumping west to the
farmer asleep in his truck, rocks and lunch
boxes behind our burnt backs red as apples
now cooling to peel. No one is resting.
Our plan to bang these rocks, whip these
boxes for wild music, we slink. We are
children; mustard weed on pant legs. And in
fifteen feet, we will later say we knew
an engine’s backfire did not ring but popped
to nothing, and in fifteen feet, we will
later say the sound was not the tractor’s
basket clipping another well. We are children. 
We smell him first. And in the early afternoon,
if you watch, a red-winged blackbird will
sit on a phone line for you silent
as waving hands, a plane in the sky.



Joe Betz lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife, Megan, and young daughter, Madeline. He is Assistant Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Beecher’s Magazine, and TINGE Magazine. A dorky dad picture and more poems are found at