EXCERPT: My American Night

Collins_My American NightIn honor of Veteran’s Day we are posting an excerpt from the forthcoming collection My American Night by Christopher P. Collins, winner of the Georgia Poetry Prize.

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.

One thought on “EXCERPT: My American Night

  1. Pingback: Georgia Poetry Prize Deadline Nov 30 |

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