7 False Starts on Living in the Old Neighborhood


Wanda, our neighbor, out feuding again with Andy,
her neighbor. His apple trees stop the sun
from reaching her strawberry patch; her ivy’s
inching toward his prize flowers. Andy keeps
a fine lawn, I can’t argue the fact, for
I’ve seen him weed through a thunderstorm.
I’ve seen him drop a trapped squirrel, alive,
over the side of the pool he eases into
each afternoon, because he always said
he’d rather drown than burn.
                                                     I’d rather burn.


How you tell apart those who own from those who rent
here on Roosevelt: One, they’re white,
                                                                      with, Two,
fenced-in yards.


Repetition, say, for instance, a scent
that drifts through once a day (meaning
discharge from a plant outside of town,
unseen, headed west with the river,
which is as fast a route as it is deep and near.
I hear that you can fish in it if you want.
If I were you, I’d try not to eat what I caught.)


... She found him on his side, his
open hand reaching for an unreachable hose...


Dana, fleet of foot, passed once
around her house and school, caught
a light at Roosevelt and Sherman Avenue,
and so she stayed in stride
until she reached Riverside Road,
then dropped with a pathway under the street
and welcomed the pale scent of river
seeping into her nose.


To date: paper airplanes and a wind-up race car,
a dustpan, a hat, and a muddy two-wheeled tricycle.

I hold on to all mine; Wanda throws her catches back.


So his apple trees keep the sun
from reaching her strawberry patch
and her ivy’s inching toward
his flowers. I’d kill him, I think,
but winter arrives here soon.
Plus there’s a war on again. Each evening
at six, dropped bombs test the limits
of every sound-system on the block.

_ The poem is an anagram of the body and title
of W.H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen.”

Mike Smith | Mudlark No. 30
Contents | Ode to Emily Dickinson