Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"The Darker Grass" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

The Darker Grass
Eric McHenry

You hate the easy things to hate:
new buildings and the weird materials
they’re made from (gypcrete, carbon fiber, foam),
5-Hour Energy, four-dollar gas,
"Blight" Graphite and Watercolor on Paper by J. Artemus Gordon
the newness of the sacrificial grass
in medians, the new arterials
that in another month will narrow
to two lanes so that crews can widen them
to six lanes so that you won’t have to wait
your turn to wait your turn for a turn arrow.
You’ll drive an extra mile to do your driving
through parts of town that pose no threat of thriving,
which means you’ve started seeing more
of your old neighborhood, which makes you wonder
if architects are ever paid to render
houses in hypothetical decline,
because that might have helped prepare you for
the seeding lawn, the 6 that’s now a 9,
the deposed mini-dish, the single shutter,
the notice Scotch-taped to the door,
the doorless frame, the deviating gutter,
the misaligned and multicolored shingles,
the spraypaint flourishes, the altered angles
of everything including your old block
and your old house, which now looks like a stock
photo from an Economist article
on houses that are worth less than the cost
of razing them. If there’s a troubled ghost
that haunts that groaning storybook, it’s you.
How many midnights have you drifted through
its seven rooms? How long do you intend
to keep your vigil at that particle-
board windowpane before you apprehend
the lost colonial across the street,
the one that overlooked the neighborhood
paternally and got out while it could,
its front walk still advancing through the grass
in concrete increments to meet
the darker grass where the foundation was?

Poet’s Notes: This is another poem I wrote after moving back to my hometown. A front walk leading to a house that had been demolished was the image that got it going. 

Editor’s Note:  Housing and neighborhood “blight” is a real and pressing issue in many cities, including Kansas City, the major city closest to my home.  For a sad but true article on this growing problem, see http://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/battling-blight-in-northeast-kansas-city-one-house-at-a-time.  “The Darker Grass” was first published in Salamander.

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