At last, terror has arrived.
Next door, the house has gone up in flames.
A woman runs from the burning wreck, her face smeared
with blood and ashes. She screams that her children are kidnapped.
It’s truly exciting, and what more would anyone ask?
For a rare and beautiful egg to present itself in the grass?
For sex with the liquor store owner to progress into something meaningful?
You don’t know what I’ve done in front of the mirror.
I’ve pulled my shorts up high like a thong. I’ve walked back and forth
doing little kicks and making faces. I’ve stopped, I’ve stared.
I try to get my mind around the sight of myself. I make a face.
Of great seriousness. I imagine that I’ve just received
a large and upsetting piece of news. Then I look into my eyes.
Can I guess what I am thinking? Can I tell you what it is?
It was raining a little.
I wondered if I were outside
if I would get wet.
I was in the car.
I passed a school.
I didn’t really know where I was.
I had lived near here for a while.
It was a quiet, residential neighborhood,
garden apartments in the back of the town.
I parked near a driveway and turned the car off.
They were basically ugly.
It’s no one’s fault though.
I wondered what I would do the rest of the day.
People were running their lives from here.
They had a coffee table and mugs with writing on them.
They had the rest of their lives. It was just like the other day.
The weather was warm for the first time.
I was out walking.
A young couple came out of a house.
She had just taken a shower,
blow-dried her hair and put make up on,
and put on light-colored pants and a t-shirt.
I smelled her shampoo
when they passed, and I felt afraid of the day.
The rest of the walk was better.
It smelled like rain in the car. There was no one around.
I heard my jacket when I moved.
I thought how god loves this place;
the grass was coming in, and the crocuses.
What if someone died, or got fired,
or vomited alone in the middle of the night?
The apartments were wood on the outside.
They were stained red like the color of a picnic table.
I was so ugly, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to drive.
If only we knew what our choices were,
something besides being flogged.
I can’t say I mind being flogged,
but I also don’t do much else.
Yesterday it was as though I was back with the old watering can,
watering the tree out the window,
thinking about the old church
where all my memories began and are stored.
The happiness of an ordinary day on Twenty-Seventh Street!
Two-thirty, fifty degrees, partly cloudy.
An old Tuesday afternoon
in which nothing happens.
An old Tuesday
between the past and the future,
in which all of history’s old strife has been long since laid down.
All the horses and brass shields, pointy spears and metal things
retired into relief
in copper, housed in a church,
starvation, pillaging, decapitation, and murder—
the way when you think of it,
you want to have your tongue ripped out of your head
and your insides punctured
and be left bleeding out of your mouth somewhere.
Instead it’s so far away it is elegant,
it seems human,
even involves some sort of piety
as though in our hearts we are clothed in a plain smock
and dirty skin,
Arda Collins is pursuing a PhD in Poetry at the University of Denver. These three poems are from It Is Daylight (Yale University Press, 2009).