Outside of Eden with Jennifer Collins


Jennifer Collins is a tattooed poet and animal lover who’s been reluctantly transplanted from the south, and now lives with her husband and creatures in Pittsburgh. Her poetry has been published in various journals, and she spends her summers teaching creative writing and drama at the Cardigan Mountain School.

later than before

In disassembling love,
I begin with sleep.

Dreams go elsewhere, nowhere, elsewhere,
and I wake into a reality that seems quietly
to have been without my other….
for some time, at least.

A binge of old movies helps the hallucination,
bringing on old faces and apparently new loves
to disquiet what was never perfect, really,
in the face of what is made to seem ideal.

Pictures turned, mutual friends most often ignored,
and familiar places left to themselves,
love nearly pulls itself to slow pieces
that perhaps can’t disappear, but do tire.

What was crying as love begins to live as nostalgia,
and the simple words that I began to say
in my dreams as a serum of forgetting have even
half begun to sound real.

Familiar face no longer expected, spirits of hands
no longer felt through absence,
love, to nostalgia, to memory, half-memory.
Love songs remind simply of forgetting,

and dreams turn to sleep from dissembling,
the full moon appearing as a full moon,
a flower looking full with only color for meaning,
my face content and bare in the mirror.

In My Class

There’s a girl who says things.

I watch her sometimes, not watching anyone,
and gravity gets heavier on me
suddenly, when she breathes to say one of these things…
things this girl shouldn’t say.

She says things that should come from
older smarter lips
things that desert her
like breaths
and strike me
like darts
quietly hitting a bull’s eye.

She’ll only meet our instructor’s eye, most days.
But our instructor seems only also
to know this girl says things
that, really, this girl shouldn’t say.

It’s as if, sometimes, the words take her
by surprise just as much.
As if language nestles in her throat,
giving no warning or preamble of thought
before it marches into the air,
before it strikes us strikes her.

She says things and knows things that she..
we we aren’t supposed to know or say.

She says things like this
in front of us,
as her innocence gets lost,
or her words are taking it away.

Outside of Eden

I wandered into a region of the other,
believing for the moment in a brief sojourn,
or at least in its possibility.
I’d been told by a friend,
‘Dear, you have no right to the voice
of that other
you don’t know’

Friend, my neck was bent to the left,
my eyes crooked with apathy,
‘you wouldn’t recognize’
my hands not so closed as they might have been
‘you’re not capable’
and my breath less sober than it should have been
‘not in this life’

But it wasn’t late, or traumatic, or planned.
It was a role slipped into,
‘beyond your reach, I think’
and an other that had been beckoning
for years,
‘you don’t know’
I realize now
‘you wouldn’t’

And still, I am no vigilante or criminal.
But I am, and will be,
‘I see it in your eyes, dear’
the other that once long ago I abhorred,
‘didn’t you say?’
the other that knows carelessness more than life
and believes, pretty simply,
that the other I’ve become,
‘the other, labeled such for a reason, love’
who I once had no right to understand,
is beautiful, Friend
‘an other you don’t know
in other words’

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