Arielle Greenberg's 'Neighbors'

Arielle Greenberg

A rebel of the academy, where she spent years as a professor, Arielle Greenberg writes in “Neighbors” of the entrapment found within the “ivory tower,” though the message of this poem isn’t limited to just her job. We all have felt the entrapment of the “ash and roaches” in our own ways and coped with it in our own different ways–sometimes crying in the bathroom, sometimes quitting to pursue what we really want out of life.

by Arielle Greenberg

Neighbors
When I was last here, the building next door burned down,
and now that I’m back, the building next door has burned down.
The one on the other side. This life has a scraping sound.
I work in a tinderbox. I eat
from silver paper, talk about the toxic bottles.
It was sunny and cool all day and I missed it.
There were children today starting their schools
and I missed them. I missed them.
A day lost to freon, and no one in the hallway.
And generally, if you are generous, you are suspect.
There was a small spark over the song
about the serial killer. “That gets a high five”:
the psychotic brain pulsing beneath a neighbor’s floorboards.
Some of my workmates connected, loved each other over this.
It’s a new year, a holy day,
and I spent it breaking soft little jokes into regrets.
Blinking silver into the cracks.
(I am an apple that glows when charged.)
(I risk my life.)
(I do not want to work in these ash and roaches.)
Home is also a place where important things are said.
There are hundreds of others living today and taking this train away from our jobs—
one lent me the pen so I could write this.
He was surprised I asked him, surprised I said anything.
Let us all get home.

Rebellious Women in Poetry (brought to you by rebellious women) is made possible by rebellious women. Reprinted from Cura by permission of the author, who, along with Rachel Zucker is a co-author of “Home/Birth: A Poemic,” and author of “Shake Her,” “My Kafka Century” and “Given.” She is co-editor of three anthologies, most recently “Gurlesque” with Lara Glenum, and is the founder-moderator of the poet-moms listserv. She left a tenured position in poetry at Columbia College Chicago in 2011 to move with her family to a small town in rural Maine. Find her on the web here. Introduction is by Jessica Dyer, a writer and editor who lives in Chicago.

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