Ghost Eden

Erika Meitner

after Anthony Haughey’s “Settlement”

              Garden of rock.
Garden of brick and heather.
              Garden of cranes with their hands raised
as if they know the yellow answer:
              to gather together—safety in numbers.
Garden of drywall frames, holes for windows
              punched out like teeth.  Garden of bar fights.
Garden of rubble and gaps,
              spectral for-sale signs knocked
from wooden posts, bleached down
              to numbers ending in gardens of overgrown lots.
We are falling into ruin, garden
              of scaffolding and shale and gravel—
give us back our peace: a half-built garden
              of theft, treasures hidden in darkness,
newspapers crumpled on subfloors telling us
              to hold fast to that which is good.
Garden of rebar and saplings with trunks
              encased in corrugated piping
because many animals can girdle
              a tree’s bark quickly:  deer, stray cats, rabbits.
Garden of Tyvek wrap loosed
              and flapping like a ship’s sail
in the gales, in the sheeting storms.
              Hanging laundry left out in the garden
past darkness, fruit from the tree
              of human-ness: socks, shirts, underpants.
Garden of long exposures, half-light, traces
              that empty themselves in tire treads running
like ladders through red clay mud:
              the dirt from which we are formed
and crushed and formed again.

More by Erika Meitner

Untitled [and the moon once it stopped was sleeping]

and the moon         once it stopped         was sleeping

in the cold blue light          and the moon          while the wind snapped

vinyl siding apart          slipped around corners          whipped the neighbors'

carefully patterned bunchgrass          our snow-filled vegetable boxes

the house unjoining              the moon       our yard strips          covered with

hollow shells          of hard remnants               ice      and my son's breath

contiguous               static          a shard of green light          on the monitor

wavers with coughs                     the Baptist church                     in Catawba

the only place lit up          down the mountain          past midnight, someone

waving their hands             at something          so quiet              you can hear

the wind tear          at the houses          you can hear          the neighbor

coming home          though he's .18 acres          away          it's too late

for that feeling          (possibility)          the night       always   held

the wind                   is at it                    again            cracking

paint            on the walls              one day          it will            unroot us

one day        the wind        will tally        our losses

but        not yet             the moon        not yet

Non-lieux

Hand-painted on the side
of a shack we pass
on the road to Ohio:
what this world comin to?

This is not haiku. This
is more like fog and we’re
socked in and your body

is invisible and right
across from me
simultaneously.

How much ammo you got?
says one guy to another
in the cola-chip aisle
of the Food Lion.

The fortitude of rain
hitting the roof:
percussive sadness.

Almost-saved is not
good enough, says
the church sign. We are
out of ketchup again.

Did you see what he
put on Pete’s grave and
what he put on Junior’s?

says the woman in
the Bob Evans bath-
room stall with a cane.

It was sprained, not
broken. From high up,
from far away.

He was still working
at that bar in town,
after all these years,

assigned to a circum-
scribed position, like
the supermoon, like
employee parking.

In the dark 7-Eleven lot
two officers approach
a white van, flashlights on
and held overhand.

The church sign says
living without God
is like dribbling a football.

The light—it was
too bright to be captured
in an iPhone photo

where people are not
the urgency of the
present moment.

Did you get it squared
away?
asks one man to
another at the Starbucks
condiment counter.

One of the officers
has a hand on his
holster. What is he
saying to the driver?

The church sign touts
tonight’s sermon: Entering
the Miraculous Zone.

There were no grounds
for prosecution. I left
before I heard
the answer.

Jackhammering Limestone

You ask about the leaves and I tell you it’s been so dry here
the leaves are just giving up, turning brown, falling off the trees,
 
which all look dead. This might be a metaphor for the election or
might be a metaphor for nothing—it’s hard to say. Each morning
 
I wake up to machines across the street jackhammering limestone,
shearing away more rock-face and turning it to rubble strewn across
 
red clay soil so dry it heaves and cracks. It’s been seven weeks of
drilling and blasting, drilling and blasting, and that’s not a metaphor
 
for anything either except maybe my midlife crisis, which I’m surely
having as there’s whiskey next to me and I’m up all night wondering
 
if I can be hairless again in some risqué places. Most days I refuse
to believe we’re doomed, despite growing evidence to the contrary.
 
I mean, it’s like the 1970s down there. Trust me. Most days, I listen
to NPR on my car radio and talk to one son or the other in the back seat
 
and ask them questions they sometimes answer as we drive home
past the pile of rubble and the leafless trees, which vaguely resemble
 
the girl I saw on campus wearing an entire shaggy outfit made from
flesh-colored plastic grocery bags campaigning on an environmental
 
platform for student council president. Her amazing bag-suit was rustling
in the breeze and it looked like she might take flight, just soar over campus
 
with the drones delivering burritos this week as a test stunt because
our motto here is Invent the Future, which I think about a lot—not as
 
‘your future’ in the sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up,
which I figured out by process of elimination was not a banker or a
 
computer programmer, and I never saw myself as a mother either but
here I am. More like I would invent a future where my black son will not
 
get shot by police for playing in a park, or driving, or walking from his
broken-down car. I would invent a future where there was always
 
enough chalk to leave notes for the next class: we are starting a revolution
somehow; instructions to follow. What no one told me about programming
 
computers for Merrill Lynch to keep their front-end trading systems
running past Y2K was that I was simply a dominatrix of code; the disaster
 
that would take our building down came later, and had nothing to do
with language. My cashier at Kroger has an epigraph on her name badge
 
under “Paula” that says, “I Will Make Things Right.” I hope that girl
wins her election. I hope that someday someone else will enter my
 
hairless palace and find it marvelous. The photos of broken glass; the piles
of rubble. The future is throttling towards us and it’s loud and reckless.

 

Related Poems

Mud Season

We unstave the winter’s tangle.
Sad tomatoes, sullen sky.

We unplay the summer’s blight.
Rotted on the vine, black fruit

swings free of strings that bound it.
In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields

grotesque extruded peppers.
We prod half-thawed mucky things. 

In the sky, starlings eddying.
Tomorrow, snow again, old silence.

Today, the creaking icy puller.
Last night I woke

to wild unfrozen prattle.
Rain on the roof—a foreign liquid tongue.