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The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991)

The Arrangement of Space cover

Martha Collins' second book, The Arrangement of Space, won the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest. Currently out of print, it is available online from the Contemporary American Poetry Archive.

From The Arrangement of Space

  • The Arrangement of Space consists of three poetic sequences:
  • —Women in American Literature: An Introduction
  • —A Book of Days
  • —Six Suites

from A Book of Days


Christmas Afternoon

They've drained the old pond, they're digging it deeper.
Two derricks face each other across the mud,
stumps, rubble, brush,
an oval of water, wrinkled like skin,
that yesterday was rain.

All right. I cried last night when the choir sang
and almost cried when the brass band played
in the almost April weather of late December.

This morning not the want, but the wanting not.

Across the street, wind chimes chime.

On the other bank three small trees
are growing together: an I, a Y, an intricate shape,
a woman leaning into the wind,
arms raised, breasts, straining against
the limbs of the others, who hold her there.

Everyone alive in the world is very nearly the same age.

I am still the baby in that house.


In the rain, the bark of the plane trees shines
in the colors, the shapes of camouflage:
trees looking like men looking like trees.

When the sun shines, the trees shade
the grass a darker green, the thick veins
of giant leaves, a giant's hands—

Terrain with deep cracks, that old puzzle---

In California, it rained on the queen
and the president, it rained on the good
and the bad, it rained on me.

In the jungle, it rained, it has rained,
it rains on bodies fallen
like leaves, on bodies that walk—

In the rain, the shadows disappear.

In a larger rain, things are lost.

In the largest rains, borders emerge—

A puzzle coming apart, becoming the world.

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