Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


My Life in Brutalist Architecture #1

     My neighbor to the left had a stroke a couple years ago. It didn’t look 
     like he was going to make it, and then he made it. I’m watching him 
     now from my window as he makes his slow way across his yard 
     with some tree branches that fell in last night’s storm. Three steps.  
     Wait. Three steps. It’s a hard slog. Watching, I want to pitch in.  
     And we do, at such times, wanting to help. But on the other hand, 
     it’s good to be as physical as possible in recovery. Maybe this is part 
     of his rehab. Maybe this is doctor’s orders: DO YARDWORK.  
     And here comes his wife across the yard anyway, to give a hand 
     with a large branch. She’s able to quickly overtake him, and she folds 
     into the process smoothly, no words between them that I can make out.  
     It’s another part of what makes us human, weighing the theory of mind, 
     watching each other struggle or perform, anticipating each other’s 
     thoughts, as the abject hovers uncannily in the background, threatening 
     to break through the fragile borders of the self. “What’s it like to be 
     a bat?” we ask. The bats don’t respond. How usually, our lives 
     unfold at the periphery of catastrophes happening to others. I’m 
     reading, while my neighbor struggles, that the squirrel population 
     in New England is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. A recent 
     abundance of acorns is the reason for this surge in squirrel populations, 
     most particularly in New Hampshire. They’re everywhere, being 
     squirrely, squirreling acorns away. We call it “Squirrelnado” because 
     it’s all around us, circling, and dangerous, and kind of funny. Language 
     springs from the land, and through our imagination we become 
     human. They’re back in the house now. We name the things we see, 
     or they name themselves into our experience, whichever, and then 
     we use those names for things we don’t understand, what we can’t 
     express. Wind becomes spirit becomes ghost. Mountain becomes 
     god. The land springs up before us. It shakes us and pushes us over.  

Credit


Copyright © 2019 by John Gallaher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“The poem happened pretty much as written. I get up early and read the news at a desk which abuts a window that looks out over our neighbors’ property, and on this day it was ‘squirrelnado’ in the news and our neighbors cleaning up after a thunderstorm. In some ways I know our neighbors very well, as they come and go, but I also don’t remember their names. These things faced off against each other as I was sitting there, and the rest of the poem is an attempt at doing something with this feeling of things slipping away.”
—John Gallaher

Author


John Gallaher

John Gallaher is the author of Brand New Spacesuit, forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2020, Map of the Folded World (University of Akron Press, 2009) and The Little Book of Guesses (Four Way Books, 2007), which won the Levis Poetry Prize.

Date Published: 2019-03-14

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-life-brutalist-architecture-1