How the Neighbors Leave

Friday, January 15, 2016

Men in undershirts stare down,
toss out wastebaskets of receipts
like crumpled moths that keep striving to fly
against the dark brick, all the way to the ground.

It’s the sheriff’s clean-up crew.
They grimace, kid, hurry, wrinkle noses.
One heaves a potted plant, a lamp, then two.
A book flaps pigeonlike, and closes.

My fourth-floor neighbors couldn’t make the rent.
The sky knows where they went.
Their TV crashes to the grass, the cracked screen sprays
a spittle of glass. This heap of leavings, yesterday

helped crowd a room with a family and three finches
where people cooked the casserole, washed dishes,
sat in the leftover heat from supper,
polished the edges of their wishes.

And always, whispering in the kitchen
like one more friend, the radio
that now lies in a tub with two
blue rose teacups, and a bowl of gravel for fish.

Even last night, the radio played slow polkas,
the parents listened in the yard
late enough so the grasses gathered dew,
the love song a wind fretting the curtain seams

and flicking motes of streetlight through the rooms
where girls and boys who’d spent an alley day
zooming on bicycles explored
sleep like an ocean with a bottomless floor.

Friday, January 15, 2016