No matter how many times I pass

by Perry Janes

the Dollar General parking lot where
concrete bergs sprout improbable
red flowers, the sinkhole photo shoot,
a bride’s train graying in coal ash, or
the corner cafe, mounds of cronut sugar
shared between strangers in February sun
—those ruins, again. That word, ruin
some dust storm clouding the scene.
If it’s true, we learn by imitation,
somewhere, a boy empties himself
on the sidewalk. He understands
how we build only what we can stand to
hold, and leave behind. How a man
of sweat and dirt-knuckle devotion
might say I made this for you and
leave the gift to crumble in the rain.
Little stone. Little dirt. The truth is
I can play in all the brick and mortar I like.
I will always be half spent signal,
ruptured pixel obscured by sun.
Maybe that’s a blessing. God
of cardboard and bedazzle beads,
electric tape and half-melted crayons
can you see it? This city, silent,
where I wander, waving hello to
windows thrown wide (by who?)

little league base runners racing between
dandelion and king devil, knee socks like
rounds of small fire in the shade,
the thousand-and-one tin cans outside
spilled on the curb, sticky,
where a child’s shoe ripped from its sole,
again, leaving a pile of rubber and canvas,
the panorama sliding out and out—
is this the story I’ve come to tell?
Of every reason to praise
the shapes we make for loneliness,
praise as a curtain from sorrow
may be the most enduring form.
Strange how, sometimes, the narrative
vanishes to be replaced by landscape:
the pipe wrench wind chime,
a white-tee rag still spotted with blood.
Because I allow myself to ribbon in the light
fallen on the couch, I fade into scenery.
Stupid boy. Stupid city stalled in place.
You should have seen the things I made once
from grandmama’s crochet kit:
a toothpick diorama, sawdust snow, streets
with my name on every sign;
some dollhouse figure in the shade,
hingeless doors on every corner

calling me inside.

Perry Janes is a writer and filmmaker from Metro Detroit, Michigan. A Pushcart Prize and Hopwood Award recipient, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Zyzzyva, Subtropics, The Cortland Review, West Branch, The Adroit Journal, and others. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. A recipient of the AMPAS Student Academy Award, he currently lives and works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.