The Neighbor

The Neighbor

Each morning the dogs walk her down Chestnut Street.

Past Taylor’s house, empty lot, red mower for sale($95.00) ,

Mrs. Alonzo’s dead flower bed, and she’s got makeup on and

clothes that are good because it’s time to wear the good clothes.

There’s Bob with the two white poodles prancing and Bob prancing

because he can when he’s out of the house.

She always stops at the empty lot, stares at the two abandoned rattan

chairs and wants to slip into one, take a breath from dancing all night,

sip the last of her champagne.

She still hears music.

Remembering Isadora Duncan

I asked for a womb with

a view.

Just a small picture window

to see what was coming.

Even then I wanted

to be prepared.

I think about routes before

I take them,


before I have them

and life before I

live it.

Even the garden

Is not spared from prediction

As all I do is prune and refuse

to replant.

They think I dance for myself

But all I do is planned.

Seeing Lake Tahoe for the First Time

Seeing Lake Tahoe

Seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time made the cones and spheres inside

my eyes spin and leap in excitement

stimulated by the electric blue,

and the sharp, bright harshness

of the sun within the lake.

Afterward, things were never the same.

I remember thinking maybe my eyes had to be brought

to life like Sleeping Beauty with the Prince’s kiss.

That weekend I began to see things that had been

background noise before and there was no turning back.

My husband’s hand on another woman’s ass,

My daughter’s limp hair falling to silver collarbones

sitting like a necklace someone loaned her,

the neighbor’s cigarettes smoked out on the back porch

always alone, accompanied by a glass of Gin.

In the morning the long, hot, dock calling me

suspended above the eye changing lake,

lifeguarding what was left.

Everyone wanted to be blind.

by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
“Thanks” by W.S. Merwin, from MIGRATION by W.S. Merwin, copyright © 2005 Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of the Wylie Agency.

The Slowdown is a production of American Public Media and the Poetry Foundation.

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Au Lave Voiture

J’ai recontrai un homme au lave voiture.

Avant que je me perde esprit,

dans la sale d’attend

nous faison deja L’amour.

Je pensais moi-meme que le barbe

que paraissant tres epineux etait,

enfait, douce contre mes levres, mon

menton, mon ventre, et quand nous

etion sallonges derriere le abri

ondule, rincage,

nuisselant d’eau et qu’il disant

qu’il me suivrant nulle part du monde

alons qu’il apprrochant

des soixant dix ans.

Je pensai en moi meme que tout ma vie


pour aboutiz a ce moment de monde desir intense

pour lui, pour moi, pour mon soufflé, pour la terre, pour les pierres, pour la


E, plus tard, j’ai donne Jose un pourboire et je suis

monte dans ma voiture et j’ai marque combine a l’etait

propre e que la miroir reflecte un homme que je pourais aimer

e je pensais a moimeme “Quelle jour de reve eveille “.

J’ai conduit chez moi.

Reincarnation as Cordelia

“Her deepest longing perhaps was to be loved unconditionally, and, at the same

time, be left in peace.”

“unquiet” linn Ulmann

All her life she had been used for something.

In the beginning it was by the scratchy faced father

who needed something sharper than

a razor.

Turned out it was a mirror and he changed her

name to Cordelia.

She reflected on this need and grew hate

In her body under the solar panel

yet longed for his truth.

as absent as the fog that looks for land.

Later, measured by many men ,she kept

measuring them back.

Loyalty oaths and money for ladies room


Finding only greed

and looking back, she sees accurate


that what she thought was actually true

had been so at the time.

Many bank tellers count change but

she had counted needs and filled them.

Now she was taking herself

apart on the floor alone,

her brain in another room

on ice.

Final act.

She knows but she grows

wings and grace flies her.

Retirement Community

Retirement Community

People come to my house because they think I will let them in.

So I do. Sometimes they’re drunk or on drugs or they have no money or they can’t be alone.

They are just looking for a nice place to stay for a while.

Most of the time I wish they would leave but I can’t tell them that.

I am a hospice:

I am a hostel

I am alone.

I know how to deal with being alone

but when other people come along it upsets the balance.

I want them to go but I want them to stay and be quiet.

I want them to be available for full body

warmth but only when I want it.

I have “anxious attachment”

There is no cure. No machine

No robotic surgery

No redo of childhood

Only a desperate longing

A low grade fever

All the time.