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The Neighbor
John Poch (bio)

Forgot to say hello to my neighbor.
Sometimes I question my own behavior.

-John Mellencamp

I.
Across the street, the 1960s blond brick wall
behind where the honey locust used to grow is all
too bright. Now, the neighbor’s tumored tree
hangs like a silhouette in memory.
The phantom limbs hang like a daylight moon.
But drowned in the light of Tuesday afternoon,
nothing harder than this brick. I don’t know
my neighbor. The tree service workers hauled
the dead limbs with the wilting fans shattered
and waving away last Friday. The blind wall is all
whose only dynamic is the gutter spatter
stain along the lower third. The slag lake
and dust of the bark left floating in the wake
of Friday’s trashy truck and trailer are the opposite
of the trail left by an animal as you hunt it.
The wall says, I told you so, torso and tower
over the summer-scorched yard and looking away.
The wall almost supervised as the tree was stifled,
unspanned limb by limb over the span of an hour,
as the tree-men hustled and regarded each other
with the masculine disdain of a feminine trifle,
strutting their work, extending their arms
in a display of veined limbs bristling
and the possible violence of the living. Harmless
behind the blinds, I kept my distance.

II.
A fascination with suffering has me
watching, by turns, the kingbird smack
and smack a cicada against a wire above
the street to my right, and then before me
on my wrist, the one size-sixteen gray mayfly
in Lubbock, Texas. It is early August.
My stationary mayfly is august and tough
with no trout stream for hundreds of miles.
And the cicada, but for her sheer sheared
glistening wings in a rudderless helicopter fall,
is a waste of thirteen dark years at the roots
of the tree now gone and hauled away.
Nature’s overrated; the wall calls.

III.
My house shadows my neighbor’s house.
The mayfly, tiny ashen dragon, sails away.
The neighborhood’s earless cat 1 call Ears
has come around to sulk, his wary head
the softest softball of shame. Not a mouse.
Not a mouse in the house, he seems to say.
Not hear. He spooks and disappears when I move.
I come to the stump, finally, not to find
my epiphany, but to stand on it, to bend
over it, amused at a minor kingdom fallen.
This wall’s windowless, and only the stump
looks up with its worm-hollowed eye.

No one’s home. In my neighbor’s yard, I stand
for nature. I shrug. I lift my hands.

 

 

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