The Neighbourhood

By | 31 October 2021

A blue flame burns low on the horizon,
Whittles the wick of a July day
And kids scuttle like cockroaches
To moth-wing mirages called home
As mothers pull scorched chooks
And themselves out of ovens
And fathers waste in armchairs,
Statues in the shadows,
Dead still, or still dead, besides wrists
Twisting flask lids like clock hands.

After dinner red living rooms
Snap to black down the street
And wives huddle on mattress edges,
Crossing themselves with calloused fingers,
Listening to footsteps play
The nightly requiem on the staircase,
The crescendo a swinging door—
A backhand to the room’s dark cheek—
Before husbands bow,
Comatose them with a kiss
As the curtain falls, bedsheets
Embalming their bodies.

Behind duvet forts
Children stare at the world
Through cracked windows,
Piecing the jigsaw in their minds,
And conjure dreams with torchlight,
Holding empty corn cans to their ears,
Heads tilting to green plastic stars
Glued to the ceiling, whispering prayers
To a deaf god in the asbestos cosmos.

Streetlights bleed out on bitumen,
Skeletal oaks shiver with dawn,
Swinging mossed tyres noosed
From their silver boughs like clappers,
The morning bell rousing hounds
Asleep on frontyard thrones
Of broken glass and milk thistle
Who croon to marrowless moon,
Waking the neighbourhood—
All those lovers and loners:
A letter apart, a sentence together.

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