Monday, June 21, 2021

The #Midwessay: Erika Veurink, The Midwest Rings

What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond.  These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors


The Midwest Rings

Erika Veurink


The Midwest rings with new life–placenta, honey, gasoline. Presidents are born here. You can’t think about the region without swallowing the sweetness of the thistle, without weaving the weeds into a crown. We have no royalty. There are no institutions without wings. Everything’s heaven. It’s like in Field of Dreams or the book of Revelation or when Cathy Song said, “He thinks when we die we’ll go to China” only Iowa or Wisconsin instead of China. Think of it: a baseball diamond heaven.
     Glaciers forges valleys just shy of mountains. Trees send their roots for miles like shorelines. Thunder rips like a mating call. The Midwest is supple and receiving. This is not gentleness. This is violent passivity. When my grandma asks questions, she’s giving me the answers. She’s knotting her apron. The bread is always just out of the oven. It’s Sunday afternoon. The malaise of the Midwest could rock a baby to sleep, could trap a horse in quicksand. What I’m trying to say is that the Midwest is a place you have to work to come up out of. 
     There is a kind of safety, a kind of sensuality to its gravel tint. When you look like everyone else and eat white bread and pray with your hands folded, life is easy. I watched The Truman Show as a child. I started looking for cracks in the sky. But then the suspicion became so exhausting. I stopped trying to touch the edges. I laid back and floated. 
     Everybody’s married. Everybody’s sick with cancer. Everybody’s headed to the lake or crossing state lines to buy fireworks. They’re eating beef. They’re kings. To write about the Midwest is to hold a trout in your sunscreen slick hands. On the edge of the rotting dock, a murky green screen of the water below wafting up like the back of the refrigerator. To write about the Midwest is to debone that fish, fry it in oil and douse it in sticky ketchup–to hold the entire cycle of life in the palm of your hand. 
     As a child, I fought for the space inside my parents young bodies, the warm vacuum of their absence in the blue sheets of their king-sized bed. The middle was safe. And I could dream or stare up into their milky, sleep-stained complexions. It didn’t matter. I wanted to be immoblie and warm more than anything else. I was paralysed. And it was good. 


Erika Veurink is a writer living in Brooklyn by way of Iowa. She is receiving her MFA from Bennington College. Her work has appeared in Brooklyn Review, Cheap Pop, Hobart, Midwest Review, Triangle House, x-r-a-y, and elsewhere. 

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