Poetry

Neighbors

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Mr. Woods sits, afternoons, on the porch
of the grey stone house across the street.
A daughter sometimes sits with him and knits.
“Cancer,” our neighbor Millie told us once.

Once or twice, while walking to his car,
Dad waves and says, “Hey Woody,” and that’s all.
A thick veil separates our dual worlds.

I watch their lives, a kind of pantomime.
His wife comes out sometimes and stands there too,
wearing her apron, then goes back inside.
Silent movies must have been like this.

What knowledge can resolve the mystery:
why lives in some homes open to my gaze,
while others on this same street stay opaque?

On our own side of Waterman I know
in happy, easygoing neighbor ways
all five families up the block’s steep hill.
Across the street, from our front porch I see
three dramas, two of them involving friends.

A man named Carl, next door to the Woods,
argues with his aged mom each day
while walking to his car to drive to work,
yet always turns to smile and wave at me.

Down on the corner, on the Woods’ other side
lives Mrs. Hahn, raised on the East Texas plains,
hand to forehead whenever dark clouds mass,
scanning the sky for funnel shapes. She knows
when time has come to shelter in the basement.

Farther up that side, more mysteries—
people I know but do not really know,
others whose names I’ve never even heard,
walled behind the brown brick of their homes,

but the Woods live almost right across the street.
From our front window, they’re the ones I see
and cannot speak to — and cannot forget.