Andrew Collard

Rogers Plaza Etude

Behold, the secondhand embarrassment
of the palace that can’t retain its tenants,
the holes in the arrangement, marked for lease,
where once an OfficeMax or Kroger might
preside above the commons. I’m afraid
you’ve come too late for anything except
overstock: a malfunctioning TV, or
the jersey of a bum the Tigers traded
years behind. The letters on the storefront
windows stand for something, only
now it’s somewhere else, in the file cabinet
of a distant headquarters, a decade
in the century before this one. Still,
despite the empty space, there are reasons
to come here, a Post Office branch sometimes
drawing crowds on Saturday, the salon
whose drywall has been, again, repainted
as if to assure you these aisles are not
forbidden. If I can make you need me
first, then maybe one day you could learn
to love the way the morning sun blasts through
the panels in my ceiling, and the scent
of popcorn radiates from the vendor’s
final stand. Not everything is so absent
as the playset resembling breakfast food
the kids once tumbled from. I was carried
to this place in pieces, and will leave it
just the same, incapable of simple
services or transactions: come dancing,
The Kinks plead before the gated entrance,
come in from the rain, I want to tell you,
sticker across my lock signaling welcome.



(Grand Rapids, MI)

these streets are narrow enough          the cars don’t get broken into
arranged in columns          like record jackets          worn away by use or want

Autotopia          I segue slowly into traffic          wondering to myself

what tenderness is left for us          among the overpasses chipped at
by another decade’s rain          the streetlights’ distorted reflections

in puddle and glass          we are travelers of the tenuous          hurtling

feet-first into tributaries of sound          my son eating his breakfast
in a car seat en route          and me          as I ferry him through signage

toward the learning center          stray traces of tomorrow spilling

into space around us          a phone call too early          to be anything
but a billing reminder          the picnic tables in the park          deleted

their graffiti          the hands that built them          I am lacking language

to package up the local barrage          the heated council meetings
corporate acquisition          of an historic paper          the words I speak

misshapen          by what I’ve meant them to contain          wisp of dandelion

exclusion zone          it’s the scope          of what I’m not equipped to notice
that scares me most          the content machine          radiating forth

an alchemy of symbolism and shock          I walk my son into class

kiss his forehead          a moment to emerge          from the emergency
embodied          before I am again preoccupied          by messages

my deluge of receipts          I am already counting          to discern

if I can hold out through summer          knowing every stop I make
along the midway of the city          will cost me          is it our turn yet

for rumors of war          the feedback loop          the shooter loose on campus

is it our turn to lose          the hour of decision          among dishes
laundry baskets          the price of eggs          inflection point diminished

by dialogue broken off          Autotopia          I am suspended here

on the threshold          drawing strength from him          my child
who so often without knowing          has led me station to station

through the fun house          this maze of faces          my every possible self

converging          interlude by interlude          I will wear his laughter
his belief          like a suit of armor          as I ascend back into road noise

this carousel of murmur          a wind          you push across your reeds



Andrew Collard is the author of Sprawl (Ohio University Press, 2023) and winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. He lives with his son in Grand Rapids, MI, where he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University.