Boom Boom

Poetry / Michael Collier

:: Boom Boom ::

I leave my back yard and enter the alley in search of my poet­ry. I get lost a few hous­es down near the Eldridge’s because all the fences and trash­cans are iden­ti­cal. I am alone, fill­ing a shirt pock­et with the bees David Hills evis­cer­ates by pulling out their stingers and which he has lined up on a flap torn from a card­board box that’s pinned to the ground with four small stones. In a tool box, I have a small ham­mer and screw dri­vers for tak­ing things apart. Above me is the sky that is always blue. (This means at night the stars are what I see but can’t count.) The alley is dirt. My shoes scuff its uneven sur­face. Sud­den­ly a door opens, a dog barks, it’s Boom Boom, a Chi­huahua, not even a dog in my mind. It rush­es its side of the fence, so much loud­er and fiercer than it needs to be. After a while it stops. Now it sounds like a tam­bourine because of its col­lar with tiny bells. Pas­sion flow­ers grow in a thick vine over Boom Boom’s fence. I have been told the leaves of these flow­ers are the lances that pierced Jesus’s chest and broke his legs. Boom Boom is whim­per­ing, lying down near a place in the fence through which I squeeze my hand to touch his nose. “Boom Boom,” I say, very qui­et­ly, “I love you. You are the only one who under­stands me.” After­wards, I feel very small and very large, restrained and freed, and cer­tain there is a pur­pose to life beyond the one I’ve been given.



From the writer

:: Account ::

Boom Boom,” which was orig­i­nal­ly titled “After Neru­da,” began in response to a pas­sage, trans­lat­ed by John Fel­stin­er from Pablo Neruda’s essay, “Child­hood and Poet­ry” (Infan­cia y Poesía). Fel­stin­er writes, “I go out in the coun­try in search of my poet­ry.” (Yo me voy por el cam­po en bus­ca de mi poesía.) “I get lost around Ñielol hill.” (Me pier­do en el cer­ro Ñielol.) Read­ing these lines, I was trans­port­ed back to the scruffy alley in Phoenix, Ari­zona, behind the house I grew up in, which was my coun­try of dis­cov­ery, a kind of wilder­ness in con­trast to the postage stamp front yards—two mul­ber­ry trees apiece—that faced the street. The street wel­comed, and even demand­ed, a social and exter­nal ver­sion of the self, while the alley invit­ed and cul­ti­vat­ed an inte­ri­or and pri­vate ver­sion. But this expla­na­tion or schema of expe­ri­ence is less impor­tant to me than the door or win­dow that opened when I read Felstiner’s trans­la­tion and through which I returned to the ear­li­est coun­try of my poet­ry. It also remind­ed me that while we might be called to poet­ry as a voca­tion, we must keep look­ing for it. Poet­ry begins and con­tin­ues in acts of dis­cov­ery. (The fact that my own acts of dis­cov­ery in my sev­enth decade are now often through poets I have been read­ing for many years is anoth­er top­ic. Those poets and poems com­prise alleys of mem­o­ry that are rich and com­plex.) As for “Boom Boom’s” form, I took my cue from Neruda’s prose, which even in trans­la­tion is rich with imagery and music.


Michael Col­lier is the author of sev­en col­lec­tions of poet­ry includ­ing An Indi­vid­ual His­to­ry (W. W. Nor­ton & Co., 2012), a final­ist for the Poet’s Prize, and The Ledge (Houghton Mif­flin, 2000), a final­ist for the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award and the Los Ange­les Times Book Prize. His most recent col­lec­tion, My Bish­op and Oth­er Poems (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press), is forth­com­ing, fall 2018. He has pub­lished a trans­la­tion of Euripides’s Medea, a col­lec­tion of essays, Make Us Wave Back, and with Charles Bax­ter and Edward Hirsch, co-edit­ed A William Maxwell Por­trait. He is the direc­tor of the Cre­ative Writ­ing Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land and is a for­mer direc­tor of the Mid­dle­bury Col­lege Bread Loaf Writ­ers’ Conferences.