NEIGHBORS IN SUMMER 1. They’ve put a lap pool in. Now, up at dawn, She parts the narrow waters. Her white head, Seal-slick, breaches, sounds. Her back is brown, Muscle-roped, with darker splotches. Dead Is not a category she’ll inhabit Voluntarily, without a fight. Her spotted hands reach for the water, grab it, Cast it behind her into cloven light. 2. When he retired, he bought a ride-on mower. Every day he rides on it. The air, Green with cut-grass scent in early sun, Endures the mower’s noise. Beneath his skin, Some splinter’s festering out. Behind him lies One brilliant ribbon, emerald, precise, Unrolled across the dew. Before him: that Expanse of fescue not yet razored flat. 3. Behind us, they’re invisible. A wall Separates our two backyards, while elsewhere, Around our property, chain-link is all We have for boundary. Here lurks a metaphor, You might say. Something there is that doesn’t love – I’d say let’s leave it there. We’ve never known Their names, only voices. He smokes clove Cigarettes. Their holly tree has thrown Beseeching arms across the wall, bejeweled Today with little early jadeite berries. A child is always crying. Two women scold Halfheartedly. The smoking man’s shout carries Through our screen door. Eavesdropping, I can’t tell Who it is his shapeless words address. The child? The women – who are they? The wall? When silence falls, it feels like a caress. 4. A red-brick firepit, archaeological In round simplicity – in fact, they made It, their first weekend, from the methodical Brick paths by which the garden had been laid Out in a formal boxwood grid with bright Medallions of cosmos, zinnias – Throws up sparks that star the glowing air Above their roof, this humid August night. From our porch swing, we watch. We liked the upright Lady, ninety-four years old, who lived there With flowers and a one-eyed Pekingese. The door was yellow then. She died at Christmas – Two years ago? The shadows now look darker. Around their fire, they laugh and drink their beer. A girl, running, writes her name in sparkler Over the fresh, unpunctuated grass.
WHY The less you give, the more you fear the giving. A little sourdough leavens all the bread. Why do you seek the dead among the living? The husband you can’t have is not worth having. Some days your hair hangs heavy on your head. The less you give, the more you fear the giving Spirit, so perilous. You’d end up grieving Old dreams moldering in the garden shed. Why do you seek the dead among the living Worries that attend you daily, thieving What little peace you’ve found? The more you dread, The less you give. The more you fear the giving, The more your terrors multiply. Your driving Becomes erratic. Go home. Go to bed. Why do you seek the dead among the living? Though you show up, you always say, Just leaving. It’s never merely that you’re feeling sad. They ask for nothing. Still, you fear the giving. Seek the dead – why not? You’ll go on living.
MOON THROUGH RAIN AT GOHAN MATSU On the print by Kobayashi Kiyochika Which is brightest: boats Under steam, whose windows lay Themselves on water? An umbrella, gold As a lit lamp on the bank? The soul beneath it? Or the moon, smearing Yesterday’s or tomorrow’s Sun through broken clouds? Editor's note: Here is an image of Moon through Rain at Gohan Matsu
Sally Thomas is the author of a poetry collection, Motherland (Able Muse Press 2020). She lives with her family in North Carolina.