Arielle Greenberg
I Return to the City

Someone poked a finger through the construction paper sky

and now I see God’s face all the time, thick as cream,

and not just on midnight-centric holidays.

I don’t consider it a gift. 


Persistent bacterial infection from e.coli in the water

or repetitive stress fracture or vaccine injury.

I don’t have any plans.

I don’t see anyone on the weekends except all these strangers, all of                    whom smoke.


I used to write poems here. 

I used to think I saw stars.

Now I’ve seen stars, write no more poems.

Buy twenty-five dollar tickets, plus the nine dollar and twenty cent                     convenience charge,

plus the three dollar retail outlet pickup charge,

for the concert that I hope will make me cry.

Say this is one good thing about living in the city.

Mean the band coming through to play the concert, not the paying.  Not the crying.


I now think outer space is a real place.

That flora is real.

Somewhere else, air is what you can breathe, is what you choose.


The summer of the decomposing fetal rat

baited by poison at the bottom of the back stair.

The place where the girl texts whilst rollerblading in traffic.

The story of the donkey-kick break-in in the next tier:

The strangest I’ve ever seen, said the detective,

and he’d seen decapitations. 

City of decapitations, of John Wayne Gacy.

Song of John Wayne Gacy on the album that makes me cry,

but the concert in this city sold out and now the tickets are one hundred dollars.


Is it the authentic we’re after?, asks my friend J.

Document it. 

Up the iron, up the Vitamin D of which everyone, absolutely everyone,

is massively deficient, even the people in Southern California,

even though the best source is sunshine.


A bunch of homeschooling mothers here are going to see

Eat Pray Love.

Think about it.  Document it.  Don’t go, though. 


Call it clarity or call it foul.

A bad mood or chemical sensitivity. 

On the spectrum.

A yellow bird dipped in soot. 

Sea bird drowning in oil.


Weird oily residue in my mason jar of city tap water.


Daughter who earlier this summer picked strawberries in her own yard

says she is reading in a magazine about outdoor thing-a-ma-jigs.

Daughter says the giant American flag at the car dealership

is one good thing about Chicago.


Are you someone who makes art during wartime?

Are you someone who does not make art during wartime?


In the country they put up enough food for when the shit hits the fan.

I used to disbelieve it.  Now I’m back, and when it does,

you’ll know where to find me.

I don’t want a bull’s eye on my scalp

and that handprint from M on my shoulder.


How do you live with love in a place you hate?  In a place that feels

             like hate,

where all the strangers smoke on the street and the baby rat is still                      there, day after day?

How do you do it, God?


Thought to put something about recent flooding activity here but trying to refrain.






Found In Volume 45, No. 06
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  • Arielle Greenberg
Arielle Greenberg
About the Author

Arielle Greenberg is the author of several books, including two in 2015: Slice and Locally Made Panties. She lives in Maine and​ teaches in the MFA program at Oregon State University-Cascades.