New Neighbors

by Eric Rhohenstein
criticalpoet.org
First Place, January 2009
Judged by Elena Karina Byrne


Yellow jackets ascend like mortar fire from the cherry’s split trunk.

Spikes of fennel rise in the side yard,
where the garden was before the old man died;
his grandson somersaults through a choke of new clover.

The day is dry;
I should be cutting lawn.

        squirrel at the birdfeeder
        ground-skirt of grackles
        the village        the village!
        fire alarm hum        crescendo, and again

Much like autumn wind: product of a gavel falling.

    (Soon enough, the cherry’s branches set against a winter skin of sky)

Boy, do you hear the pop songs aging,
aging from kitchen windows?

    (Across Erie, the edge of Canada erupting from spring lake-mist)

Some things are broken before they’re ever bent,
but only some.

    (One day, the summery inside of a woman)

        hay-rolls at the velvet
        edge of vision        sunrise sunset
        and how it goes,
        and how it went.

As if this was the start of anything;
it’s only a lion’s mouth grown wider, wider, roaring.

Much like your mother’s: the logic of donning play-clothes, of not missing dinner.

        farmers’ daughters fatten up
        we sons of nothing much
        the village cream is drawn
        cup by cup        make whey! make whey!

Afternoon dogs sing the pressure of dawn.


"New Neighbors" ignites a fresh, sensory motion forward. At "the edge of vision" the poem revitalizes literal vision alongside the figurative vision of the mind's eye, "how it goes." Language in motion becomes a key process of seeing through an ever-changing domino-effect of metaphor: yellow jackets ascend, a grandson somersaults--crescendo, autumn wind, gavel falling and so on, until the poem reaches the marvelously mundane-sublime place where "dogs sing the pressure of dawn." --Elena Karina Byrne

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