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It Is Daylight

It Is Daylight

Arda Collins
Foreword by LOUISE GLÜCK
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 112
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nptbb
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  • Book Info
    It Is Daylight
    Book Description:

    Arda Collins is the 2008 winner of the annual Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Mesmerizing and electric, her poems seem to be articulated in the privacy of an enclosed space. The poems are concrete and yet metaphysically challenging, both witty and despairing. Collins' emotional complexity and uncommon range make this debut both thrillingly imaginative and ethical in its uncompromising attention to detail. In her Foreword, contest judge Louise Glück observes, "I know no poet whose sense of fraud, the inflated emptiness that substitutes for feeling, is more acute." Glück calls Collins' volume "savage, desolate, brutally ironic . . . a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable."

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15546-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Louise Glück

    Before Eddie Murphy became a movie star, he was a crucial part of one of the several golden ages ofSaturday Night Live; I am thinking in particular of the beaming malice of Mr. Robinson (aka Mr. Rogers) ofMr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. Here were all the accustomed props to which we parents were unavoidably exposed: the cardigan waiting in the closet (along with the comfy footwear constituting the at-home uniform that separated the outside from the inside); the new word chalked on the handy blackboard (a word that America’s children were encouraged to both learn and visualize), the blackboard itself...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. The News
    (pp. 1-1)

    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...

  6. Spring
    (pp. 2-3)

    I was making a roast.

    The smell wafted from the kitchen into the living room,

    through the yellow curtains and into the sunlight.

    Bread warmed in the oven,

    and in my oven mitt, I managed to forget

    that I’d ever punched someone in the face.

    It seemed so long ago, I might not even have done it.

    I went out into the yard before dark

    and saw last year’s rake on the lawn.

    It was a cheap metal one

    that tore up the old grass.

    I did that for a while.

    When I went back in the house,

    the roast...

  7. Pool #3
    (pp. 4-4)

    When I hear the ice cream man coming

    Turkey in the Straw playing coming around

    the corner, I duck

    under the window curtains.

    I peek at a bit of grass and the street

    under the small apples on the hems.

    I don’t come out until he’s gone;

    I’m amazed at how still

    I always am, but all the time I’m thinking

    about the dollar bills in my wallet;

    picturing myself out there next to his white truck;

    buying a King Cone;

    looking at the pictures of the ice creams

    on a deep blue background;

    reading the names and descriptions

    of...

  8. With A Voice In Front Of You
    (pp. 5-6)

    As you’re standing with the heel of your shoe

    on top of some neatly sliced red onion

    you might think to yourself, “I’m at onion,”

    or, “I’m in onion today.” Coming home

    in the evening you might see a letter

    waiting there, tucked just underneath

    the sliced onion. You would stand

    with the heel of your shoe just beside

    the slices while opening it. The letter

    might be from a friend, filled with

    some news, and asking how are you?

    at your new place. A fly might come

    in the window and land nearby

    as you read. That evening, beside...

  9. The Sound Of Peeling A Potato
    (pp. 7-7)

    Polished shoes, and the world shines in them like a heaven.

    Green grass on a sunny November afternoon

    and the Leaning Tower of Pisa just in sight.

    A low thump close to the ground

    just before dark over some hills,

    talking to someone in your head

    who bears witness to your thoughts.

    Lovers at a wintry lake

    covered at night with snow.

    The car pulled up so close to the edge.

    Cold in black relief. Small cabins in a circle.

    What will happen?

    They’ll wait five hundred years

    while they sit and listen to a potato being peeled.

    Not for...

  10. Low
    (pp. 8-8)

    It’s not happiness, but something else; waiting

    for the light to change; a bakery.

    It’s a lake. It emerges from darkness into the next day surrounded by pines.

    There’s a couple.

    It’s a living room. The upholstery is yellow and the furniture is walnut.

    They used to lie down on the carpet

    between the sofa and the coffee table, after the guests had left.

    The cups and saucers were still.

    Their memories of everything that occurred took place

    with the other’s face as a backdrop and sometimes

    the air was grainy like a movie about evening, and sometimes there was...

  11. Department Store
    (pp. 9-9)

    You’re a realist. It’s a department store.

    God is never there,

    even when everyone goes home at night.

    A saleswoman left her dark gray wool skirt

    laid out on a chair when she went to bed.

    The room was quiet while the woman slept.

    The skirt didn’t pray.

    The skirt was lined with shadows from the blinds.

    The lines moved around the room through the night.

    The saleswoman breathed into the shadows.

    Her breath, the heat, the faint smell of supper

    she had made earlier passed through the skirt.

    It was a long time since any speaking

    but it was...

  12. A History Of Something
    (pp. 10-11)

    For the pilgrims, turkey was what was in style.

    They dressed up like guns.

    Tonight, it’s macaroni with oregano,

    tomato, and ham, and the kitchen light

    comes from the butter and cheese. You’re

    sitting where you always sit. Every night

    at dinner you’re sitting with

    the phrase “down the hall,” because

    you look down at the dark hall

    from your chair at the kitchen table

    and wonder if it’s snowing.

    Your toes turn a certain way

    and you say, “ears.”

    You sit on the floor

    and try to play cards, but

    before you know it,

    you’re smushing the Jack

    of...

  13. Letter Poem #5
    (pp. 12-13)

    Dear Turning Black,

    I went to see the hypnotist

    the other night

    and all the next day

    into the night that followed.

    I’ve just come from there,

    I think. The sun is coming up.

    I’m watching a movie about winter.

    Two people are walking across a snowy field at twilight.

    In my room, too,

    it’s winter, can see my breath in bed, cold on the windows.

    In the night I saw myself in the mirror

    as though I had Down’s syndrome, or a stroke,

    wondered how I could still think,

    where myself had gone to

    to leave behind this slack-faced...

  14. 25A
    (pp. 14-15)

    A little, wood statue

    of Buddha, that you can’t help

    but see as a drunk, old

    grandpa, with corn in his teeth.

    So you go to the hospital, just

    to visit his son. But then

    you have to go every day

    for weeks, and things keep

    changing. Christmas comes

    before you know it, and it’s

    backyard footprints in the snow

    from the window, and grandpa’s

    yelling at you, as though

    he’s channeling

    some asshole from another

    century, who still wants

    to get his licks in somehow.

    The icy harbor, plaid.

    And then it’s not Christmas anymore

    but it still gets...

  15. Letter Poem #6
    (pp. 16-16)

    Dear February,

    I know we’ll be together again;

    they can’t stop us,

    they don’t even want to:

    why would they even care?

    There are too many buses,

    no one can keep track of them all,

    in winter, when they come up Main Street every fourth person.

    Your purples—

    how do I say it?

    They are not even purple;

    it’s as though you make all the houses ugly again,every day

    god how I love that—

    what you do with aluminum siding,

    it’s practically music—

    it’s like listening to a bus pull away—

    If only you knew how it is

    not...

  16. Island
    (pp. 17-19)

    Finally you arrive at a small bungalow

    with a thatched roof and bamboo frame.

    Inside, is every face you’ve ever made. You

    leave in a hurry, just go right back outside

    and stand a few feet away with your back

    to the door. Nearby, a gathering of

    wives are seated at a bamboo

    table. They wear suits and dainty shoes

    and little anguish veils across their faces.

    They have expensive, sharp silverware.

    You wonder what will they eat?

    As a special, expensive touch,

    they have handmade White House

    and Pentagon salt-and-pepper shakers. Why

    do you feel sorry for them? A...

  17. Not For Chopin
    (pp. 20-21)

    Don’t put off your shower any more

    listening to Chopin.

    Take the Preludes personally;

    he’s telling you that he can describe a progression

    that you yourself have been unable to see,

    shapely, broad light at one-thirty,

    evening traveling up a road,

    an overcast day as gentle bones.

    Don’t remember the music;

    remember it as something obvious

    that you are compelled, doomed, to obscure

    and complicate. You erase it twice.

    The first time

    as you listened, unable

    to have it,

    the second time

    as you were unable

    to remember it.

    Angry with Chopin,

    what does he know?

    and finally:

    Listen to...

  18. From Speaking In The Fall
    (pp. 22-23)

    Was that the river?

    No, it wasn’t the river, oh, it was the sink.

    We don’t need a known reason, I say,

    we can have our own ones;

    we don’t even have to know what they are;

    they’re from before all this,

    they’re from before everything,

    from when the universe was a dark and cold place with nothing in it.

    I feel that there is no telephone.

    I see myself

    as a cat who has learned how to imitate talking on the phone

    through observation,

    has learned how to pick up the receiver with its paw

    and turns to look...

  19. Because It Has To Be This Way
    (pp. 24-26)

    It’s been a while since I’ve been so

    blah blah blah, he says.

    Blah blah, she says.

    She thinks that the universe is expanding like a giant lily.

    You don’t know

    these people. They’re off

    in a little theater. The set

    is a bedroom with a modest

    bed on which they lie. It’s

    lit with a bedside

    lamp and rhythmic night sounds

    come in from the dark

    all around. He sleeps on his back

    with his hands folded

    demurely, waiting

    to be exported by great forces.

    She wonders if somewhere

    there is a lake made of melted butter.

    Outside the...

  20. Pool #13
    (pp. 27-27)

    I become envious

    of my imagined image

    of a person holding two six-shooters

    and wearing clothes from the mall and a cowboy hat.

    When I seemyselflike this

    I see that I am ridiculous

    and shameful;

    I have never even held a gun,

    or been on a horse—

    I can see how badly

    the day that I get on one will go;

    a severed spine

    at worst,

    a day of sheepish fuck-ups at best.

    Why is it so easy

    for others to shoot guns and ride horses?

    When I think of how unfair

    this is, I’m infuriated.

    As it...

  21. Pool #10
    (pp. 28-28)

    The cantaloupe lady is ringing my bell,

    again. This should really stop. If I could,

    I would wish that I could make her go away—

    but the problem, the problem

    is thatI don’t think

    that it’s her who’s doing it:

    I think it’s themelon.

    Everything is contingent

    on its steady approach.

    I don’t think the sun will come up

    unless it’s possible

    for the day to clear a path.

    I think the best thing would be

    for someone to beat me,

    maybe with a stick,

    until I say, “Day is night! Day is night!”

    I called my house...

  22. It Is Daylight
    (pp. 29-31)

    I called my house from a pay phone

    down the street before I went home.

    I needed to check on the empty situation.

    It was daylight,

    still here.

    My shadow looked large and unschooled.

    The sidewalk was yellow in the sun.

    I was thinking that I wasn’t anyone

    and that my future would be a trajectory

    leading further away.

    The lilacs were out. They looked like a detail

    from a bucolic story or tableau

    where people are naked, eating picnics,

    grapes, kissing, and drinking wine

    while playing musical instruments. It seems made up,

    but it’s not. It must be based...

  23. Garden Apartments
    (pp. 32-33)

    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...

  24. April
    (pp. 34-35)

    It was hours before I sat down

    with a bowl of soup, a soup

    that I, myself made. I could not

    decide which way to walk around

    and approach the table

    for the best outcome.

    Morning was made up

    of blather that sent me

    to the outermost limits of slurping

    on my fingers. Imagine,

    trying to eat a soup without a spoon,

    and all the time thinking

    about the windows upstairs in the room

    where I had sat working. What will become of us?

    Once, I bought vegetables by the side of the road,

    but that doesn’t mean anything now....

  25. Pool #8
    (pp. 36-36)

    A gross exaggeration,

    and a disgusting one, really.

    The arc of beauty,

    I was disappointed and relieved

    to find out,

    is an actualrainbow,

    an actualarc of beauty.

    How the sky was pink in the avenue

    in the evening, everyone out walking

    in their ugly clothes

    under golden rooftops.

    If I were someone else,

    I would imagine them

    with giant angel wings

    like a vision

    from a Jesus rock group,

    the everyday evangelical

    surrounding us in willing

    or unwilling embrace,

    the messiah to return

    as a giant sympathy card.

    A night fire,

    and this one really burns the house...

  26. January
    (pp. 37-39)

    A night fire,

    and this one really burns the house down.

    At dawn it’s still smoking

    and I love it so much,

    like the world has happened the thing

    I wanted;

    not like it loves me, but like,

    “I know, Iknow,”

    it says, “calamity,”

    like, “why not for you, too?”

    and I feel so included and ordinary

    like I know what real order is;

    and like it exchanges a look with me

    and like it exchanges a look with me

    together as the sky gets lighter.

    And too far

    to hear I know

    a rooster crows,

    so far away...

  27. Over No Hills
    (pp. 40-41)

    It civilizes me,

    not like a private sense of bed

    but that I have powers of speech at all—

    I think I am going to stop

    eating bits of paper

    that don’t say anything on them—

    that don’t even say anything on them—

    I know I should do something

    as they say, “for the snows of embarrassment”

    like a day in March when the blood is closer,

    day singing for the loss of its whip.

    Closer, I say,closer.

    Or maybe I’ll arrange to have you run over by horses

    unexpectedly.

    At first it will seem terrible,

    a wood-framed tableau...

  28. Poem #9
    (pp. 42-43)

    And felt ashamed at this

    clarity

    though I’ve made a mess out of it

    but knew

    listening to the neighbor shovel

    heavy ice in the driveway

    and the sun was out

    that it was a thing to go forward to;

    Finally willing to talk to the trees,

    maybe for the first time

    ever

    and like feeling ashamed

    at what they would say to me;

    confusion at the shrubs now looks good;

    all the things that are called

    that I don’t know how they’re called—

    I’m brought to the low

    approaching world below the upper air

    contrite at how it continues...

  29. Heaven
    (pp. 44-45)

    It was finished and went to heaven.

    Heaven is a white Formica table.

    Not what I expected,

    but I’m not unsatisfied.

    God still isn’t here.

    I’m not even waiting.

    Where would I be

    trying to get to? It’s like I’m a person

    without face parts.

    I remember what it was like

    to use my eyes,

    and the things I looked at.

    I think a lot of seeing the world from a car,

    being with the air over fields,

    stable and light brown when it’s gray out,

    or invisible at night,

    like they could be water

    if you didn’t know where...

  30. West
    (pp. 46-47)

    A glass of orange juice

    overpowers the counter.

    The street in the window

    is two minutes

    into the future.

    The past is out there,

    but not as explicit.

    If I move,

    it’s a small city

    surrounded on one side by snow-carved peaks

    restored from a poster in a public health facility; they’re separated

    from a desert in a bright, opaque,

    amber shade that the make-up counter callsAlways. I’m wearing

    a peach turtleneck and menstruating

    in a house with immaculate leather furniture.

    The person I am now

    who makes mention in the world

    through an organized hair style,

    but have...

  31. Central Park South
    (pp. 48-53)

    The coffee rings are in view

    on the papers and book covers; big news

    in the rabbit hospital. You can see it:

    the bunnies are bandaged around their heads. He has a fancy office

    on Central Park South

    on the other side of the carriage driveway

    across from the Plaza, one block

    from the green and stone

    Park horizon

    behind the cream and gold awning

    at The Pierre, where he does your root canals

    from a room on the periphery.

    You hope he might adopt you.

    You won’t know until the end. He discusses your nerve endings,

    the fate of...

  32. Bed Poem
    (pp. 54-55)

    In the shower,

    lunchtime.

    It’s nice not to be out with the cars,

    and that there’s nothing to hear

    when I come out, either.

    She’s going out for carpaccio

    and a musical tonight.

    I’m having a piece of light that broke on a building

    two weeks ago.

    She’s moving slowly; she allows me to watch her leave

    to indicate that she’s coming back. All I can think

    is how nice it is without her. I’m about to lie down

    in bed with the towels,

    for as long as it takes. I don’t really hope

    she won’t come back,

    but I...

  33. Elegy
    (pp. 56-58)

    She asks me if the great aunt has been around lately.

    What do you mean by lately? I say.

    I’ve been doing too much of this recently.

    She doesn’t say anything.

    No, I tell her. No.

    I think it’s because I’ve been shirking my duties;

    she thinks this.

    Maybe she’s right, or maybe she’s not right at all;

    we can’t always agree;

    I don’t think I’ve seen her,

    I say,

    because she answered the question. Remember?

    After the great aunt died,

    I saw her all the time.

    She never said anything,

    which I assumed was a reflection of my own...

  34. Arctic Poem
    (pp. 59-60)

    The Goldilocks theory of the universe is in play.

    The most important thing is not to exult.

    The day after it snows

    is reason itself.

    The universe is on earth,

    unexpurgated

    soil and frost.

    There’s an empty pine tree

    outside the door

    with a piece of snow under it.

    It’s what you think it is. It has minuscule surface

    black bits of softened wood and the road

    and a space of grass

    next to the cement walk.

    It’s after seven,

    zero.

    The linoleum carpet,

    bag of sweat socks in my mouth.

    It’s cold this morning in the dog pile.

    It’s...

  35. Pennsylvania
    (pp. 61-65)

    Pennsylvania,

    my one and only

    hell, the one

    I know; periwinkle

    gray vale, or dale, gentle

    in spite

    of a shadowed breeze; utterly

    apprehensible, though there is no way, truly

    to know

    what its sky is: a pale vein

    a separation from the land outside

    by a gigantic

    translucent bruise-colored petal

    too big to see. If I had stayed

    I wouldn’t

    know this was hell,

    would I? But I drove

    the mountains. I saw

    a sixteen-year-old boy

    steering a plow

    next to the interstate

    drawn by Clydesdales

    with hooves like stones

    for a house in a fable

    about a past...

  36. Evening
    (pp. 66-66)

    Outside he saw furnaces.

    The crucial May light elucidated

    the blossoms. They were translucent. They appeared

    pink, to move slowly. The bench

    in the bright grass before night, the man driving

    in the downtown dressed

    in an elaborate outfit,

    but it was the afternoon

    bright in a swath around the man inside the man’s car. Over and over

    he saw the beach and the water. He was always exhilarated

    with nothing. The person was there

    in the middle of saying this like he did

    in the morning. He spoke in the sink. His blood beat

    in his stomach. Something happened...

  37. Dawn
    (pp. 67-79)

    Night, dawn

    seashells

    traveled on

    a shore.

    He slit a zoo

    full of animals.

    It was only one calf.

    It turned out to be a person,

    not a calf. The calf

    made sounds.

    Blood filled the grass,

    the end of winter. Day

    in the sun for the first

    time looked like a star. There had been

    frost in the dark. There wasn’t a calf

    or a person, there had been

    no killing. He put his arms around

    it, made up its soul.

    He had killed so many

    people, it should have been quiet.

    The city was not beneath

    anything. The...

  38. Parts Of An Argument
    (pp. 80-82)

    I didn’t know I had god until god was gradually not there over time. I don’t feel abandoned. It is part of taking things as they come. You can’t feel abandoned by something that isn’t officially your province. Because I don’t believe in god, I used to think I was lucky that god was there anyway. I noticed it when I looked at my lap, to fold out a napkin, or put my hands on the thighs of my pants. When I look at the sky, I know that the forceful feeling it produces is an interface of my mind...

  39. Neptune
    (pp. 83-86)

    We pass the day in March of being in the cemetery and

    eating a burger.

    The air is made out of statues and dead people.

    This is why we have sex together.

    Did I show you this?

    It passed through the particles.

    The shadow of a continent passed over

    us like the shadow of a cloud over a body of water.

    There is a picture of blowing out a ghost

    and this is what life is like for the livers.

    I wanted to ask you a bunch of things.

    A sound curved inside a tall wave

    that showed through on...

  40. Poem
    (pp. 87-88)

    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...

  41. The Sky As With Bells, As With Nothing In It
    (pp. 89-89)

    This bright day all together we eat a Sunday dinner.

    We watch the sun in the wind through a mirror

    that reflects the leaves blowing hard behind glass doors.

    Yellow-green, turning violently and violently, and quiet.

    The gilded mirror opens up to trees like a high gate

    on a wall that leads nowhere, as to a room that lies behind—

    a display for window curtains in a department store—

    a window dressed up in its Sunday best, an organdy veil

    under wool drapes, silky tie-backs with tassels, wall to wall carpet.

    A light comes through the curtains as though the...

  42. Snow On The Apples
    (pp. 90-93)

    There was snow on the apples

    somewhere.

    You’re at home,

    it’s getting dark out, rain

    makes the cars louder. Nobody

    seems to be driving

    the cars. Someone has arranged

    for them to be there going by,

    six o’clock. Someone has made

    the sound of air in the room louder.

    God? you say, but not aloud. Since

    there is no god, you have to be

    both you and god. Yes, god says. You

    turn over on the couch

    and push your face into the dark.

    Remember

    when we went swimming?

    The lakes, god says,

    the one that was muddy

    on the...