Gritty Details

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tonight's Poet Corner: Hello, Beautiful Neighbor

Hello, Beautiful Neighbor
by Belinda Roddie

Outside, I am lost. The fog
is a returning guest as I creep
across the pavement. My eyes
adjust to the grays, and I see
my neighborhood unfolding like
a pop-up book in my lap. In front of
the nearest house to my left, a beautiful

young man in a green jacket and brown
trousers rummages for a door key
that he does not have; it is still resting on
his brother's coffee table, where the beer cans
pile up like the pyramids of Giza
within a stained wooden desert. I stop

only to wave at the old woman with red
still in her hair. Widowed at fifty-two,
she keeps a photograph of her wife
tucked in the abyss between her breasts.
Three times this week, I've now strolled

through here to sit atop a golden hill. From there,
the view of a city I do not belong to
is dulled by sparse sunlight. The traffic hums
like silver insects in an unending stream. The
noise, from the crest, sounds like laughter.

When was the last time my father
showed me this horizon? He's dead, too,
like the widow's wife, but he is not kept
in books or lockets or bosoms. He stays
away from permanence, but, like all cold
memories, never seems to thaw from my mind.

I return to my neighborhood and see
a rare smile from the widow. She giggles in the
warming afternoon, her pruning shears dancing
across stubborn juniper and ivy. I look toward
the naked left flank of the young man's house
and see his beautiful legs protruding haphazardly
from his basement window. He is stuck,
and thrashing wildly, all the curses

that spray from his wet lips directed
at both his booze-addled brother and his own
non-booze-addled carelessness. Inside, it is dark,
and what the trapped man sees, he does not
like. Too many shadows lurk behind
the abandoned shelves that cradle no books,
and the suitcases are filled with anything
but travel luxuries. Should I help him?

The remaining mist separates us, but only
like a thin curtain separates a lover from
a lover. Delicate, fleeting. Fragile hesitation tucked
under my gray sweater. I keep my hands buried
in my pockets. Behind me, the snipping of a metal
beak against dry foliage sounds like a chirping
mechanical bird. I breathe in and feel the edges
of my nostrils burn red from the chill. Far away

from town, little white boats line up for a race
on the white molars of a hungry ocean. I think
about driving there, but my little white car
has broken down. That is why I walk. That
is why I have time to ponder over things
that normally would scare me, and my temporary
bravery scalds me like a bad cup of coffee
stirred by a long-necked, dirty spoon.

It takes some time, but the young man is finally able
to free himself, the window gaping like a dislocated
jaw as he extricates his swollen upper body. His
jacket, though still that lush viridian, is now decorated
with the dust and cobwebs of his ancestors' bones.
He gulps down air like water and rubs his sides,
most likely chafed and raw like uncooked meat from
the struggle. Then he notices that I've been watching
him and fails to hide his embarrassment. I don't judge
him. Never will. Never want to. He is beautiful.

My house is small compared to his, my yard
not so floral compared to the widow's. I have no
plants to trim, no cellar of antique ghosts to agonize
over. I think about inviting both of them over for tea:
The beautiful man in the green jacket with the alcoholic
brother and the past demons; the old woman with red
hair and a dead wife and rusty pruning shears in
the garden of Eden. The golden hill worth more than
my bank account. The boats. The city. The fog.

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