“Border Town”

by Kara Olson

“Shard of Violet Plotted on a Blue Grid” by  Jury S. Judge

“Shard of Violet Plotted on a Blue Grid” by Jury S. Judge


“In the last three years, Pierre—the capital of South Dakota, though a city of only 13,000 people—has been wrenched by a series of suicides, most of them young people. Eleven people from 13 to 23 years old, including 8 teenagers, have killed themselves, about 13 times the national rate…”

New York Times, April 5, 1998

Pierre was for knowing horizons.
The first person I kissed
put his father’s rifle to his lips.
The sky came closer than before.

We sang hymns at his funeral.
My mouth couldn’t move.

Past the dam’s powerhouse
where Lake Oahe submerged
Lakota lands, teens still jump
into a current of deep water.

Indian children/white
children/those strange
unto themselves.

How much could we see,
asked my history teacher,
quietly, so as to keep his job.

The reporter who’d never
been to South Dakota,
but had read Little House,
speculated government layoffs.

No white person talked
about Indian children
committing suicide
until white children started
killing themselves.

No one looked
beneath the tufts of sage
dappling the bluffs.


Kara Olson grew up in South Dakota and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. Her work has appeared in Water~Stone Review, JuJubes, and So to Speak. She lives in Minneapolis.