Collins is himself a former military officer and a twelve-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, having completed three overseas combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
His collection of lyric poems wrestles with a sense of self that has become fragmented by the experience of war, as so many veterans can attest.
His poem, “Swing,” is an exploration of the strange juxtaposition of civilian life with the experiences of war, as well as a lament of child-rearing while deployed.
A late February afternoon,
as my wife and I watch through
frosted glass of the front window,
my son prepares his snow-suited
body to swing a metal bat
into the chest of a snowman.
From his form, I see he was taught
well by the coaches–other boys’ fathers–
at the school’s summer T-ball camp: his stance
balanced and centered, each boot pressed
firmly in snow,
his grip choked properly on the bat–
knuckles of the left at bottom aligned
with knuckles of the right at top.
It is a pose rehearsed
over and over with his mother
along the backyard berm,
his body’s arrangement to limit the wrists’ motion,
forcing the bat into his palms and not fingers–
a stronger swing.
Into the wintered yard I watch as he rocks
slowly heel to toe as if anticipating
some imaginary pitch,
and I sigh when he screams his booted
left foot forward
in a desperate, ready-to-hit strike.
My wife lowers her eyes, walks
away from the glass
into the other room. But I still hear
the sound she makes.
My son’s hips, shoulders, arms, and wrists
rotate in a perfect, full-extended swing,
the bat’s metal tip busting one large
chunk of the snowman just below the chin,
the white lump flying the freshly plowed street.
He drops the bat, collapses into the snow,
and sends his cry through bare maples.
God, it is a good swing,
I say to no one.
It takes my son most of my last
afternoon to destroy what he and I
created the previous day
in the snow. Not until street lamos
shadow the please of his mother
does he come inside. Tomorrow,
he knows I return to the place
where snow never comes
to finish a tour begun
eleven months before.
Swing is all he can do.
My American Night is slated to release February 16th, 2018.