Andrew Collard
Pax Americana

A hanging bulb swings      almost imperceptibly
in its own light, varying the shadows,      if barely, in the corners
of my uncle’s empty kitchen after class.      No scent

            of butter melted      in the saucepan, no strayed shout intended
            for the TV, and the ballgame      being played mere miles
            behind it      through the wall, could make that sweatbox seem

any more inhabited      than others down the street,
each one the same: the carpets      immaculately clean, the quiet
scent of dryer sheets      meandering up the stairway,

            and stashed on the living room’s      least conspicuous wall, a print
            of praying hands. In someone else’s home,      every provision
            requires clearance, lying first beyond my reach,      and then

beyond my will, and twenty years will pass      before I learn
the sense of heaviness      this isolation brings me, this tenor
of a scar, in other tongues,      is known as loneliness.

            There’s a distance, here, encoded      in the space between
            the houses, in the route      the cops take, circling the block,
            in the pixelated faces—the ones      who got away—

captured on the backs      of emptied cartons in the bin,
as though the neighborhood, itself,      were whispering, forget.
Forget the nightly grate and whistle      of the 4:30 train,

            its blue-coated conductors      so impatient for Chicago,
            and the passengers      made faceless by their haste. Forget
            the rails, those rusted bones      loosed from the flattened gravel

a thousand engines trusted      they would cling to, and the wires
still strung beside that track for miles      to either shore. Forget
the smokestacks towering      above them, spouting shrouds of steam,

            the unsettled surface of the river,      and the peace
            that hides beneath,      waiting to ascend, to lay this block
            and all that its constructions might illuminate      to waste.

Andrew Collard lives in Kalamazoo, MI, where he attends grad school and teaches. His poems can be found in Ploughshares, Sixth Finch, and Crazyhorse, among other journals.