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.