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The Neighborhood Only Returns in Fragments

Robin, ryegrass, trilevel, oak. As though a scene enshrined

as the subject of some great painting has come up missing,

and what remains is just a series of impressions. A hand

pressed to a stranger’s shoulder, almost embarrassed to be felt,

and what happens after: every day I must traverse my own

memory like a suburb full of awful roads while knowing

the patterns were arranged this way to serve another’s interest.

It all gets harder to believe in, the more I embellish, dressing up

the holes between the scent of skunk, the silent evergreens,

with junk words like there was, as in, because, the bits that freight

the plot into a strained cohesion. Who is it now that’s speaking,

and are you sure? The distance from my stories to their inception

is increasing, each an unmanned probe whose transmission

will one day cease, wandering in a night beyond all understanding.

Once upon a time, someone says, and immediately we begin

to build ourselves a habitable space inside their rhetoric,

a still life of perennials and garbage bins. O child, with autumn

jacket hanging off the stoop, the voice of disjunction has arrived

to shout down all the sense you’ve made of things. To preserve

these hours the way you see them now, you must invent a language

as inevitable as all that would unravel them: your jeans are Levi’s.

The stray cat is a tabby. The chalk house you’ve inscribed into the walk

is ornamenting concrete that the winter will reduce to rubble.


ANDREW COLLARD is the author of Sprawl (Ohio University Press, 2023), winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, MI, with his son, where he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University.


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