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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 18, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I was on a Fulbright in Northern Ireland last spring and doing research at Belfast Exposed, a contemporary photography gallery, which also has an archive of community photos that include the period of the Troubles. On my way out one day, I picked up a card from an old exhibit of Anthony Haughey’s work, which led me to his website, and his images of Irish Ghost Estates—housing developments abandoned mid-build due to the economic crash—called ‘Settlement.’ I used his images to write this poem.”
—Erika Meitner

Ghost Eden

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.

Copyright © 2016 Erika Meitner. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Erika Meitner. Used with permission of the author.

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner is the author of Copia (BOA Editions, 2014); Ideal Cities (Harper Collins, 2010), a winner in the 2009 National Poetry Series; and Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003), winner of the 2002 Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize.

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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

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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-